Breonna Taylor was fatally shot on March 13, 2020 and laid to rest by family members and friends whose grief was exacerbated by Louisville, Kentucky officials refusing to press charges against the officers involved. News that they were considering charging the officers left many of us with hope. But when the verdict was announced that there would be no charges for Breonna’s wrongful death, the nation began protesting once more.
It saddens me to admit that I never believed the officers would be charged. Black people receiving justice in any form has always been a crapshoot—and you know we gamble every day of our lives in the country. What does give me hope, however, is that there are other forms of justice to be had.
Civil justice – Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother, filed a wrongful death lawsuit and was rewarded a $12 million settlement. Many criticized her for seeking damages but Sam Aguiar, a Louisville-based attorney for Palmer explained, “She knew how important reform was, and she knew that the only form of justice we could get from the civil system, from a jury, (was) money.” In no way did Ms. Palmer intended to stop fighting for justice; included in the settlement was over a dozen police reforms she hoped would prevent another mother from experiencing similar pain.
Procedural justice – On June 12th, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer signed the “Breonna’s Law” ordinance. Breonna’s Law states that any Louisville Metro Police Department or Metro law enforcement officer must knock and wait a minimum of 15 seconds for a response. It prohibits any search warrant that doesn’t require police to verbally announce themselves and their purpose at the property. “No-knock” warrants such as the one that led to Breonna’s death, can only be sought if there’s “imminent threat of harm or death” and be limited to the following offenses: murder, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking, and sexual trafficking.
“I’m just going to say that Breonna…that’s all she wanted to do was save lives. So with this law, she’ll get to continue to do that.”Tamika Palmer
Poetic justice – Brett Hankison, one of three officers involved, was fired and faces three charges. The other two have been placed on administrative leave. We now know that Hankison had a troubled history with the Louisville Police Department and upon his resignation from his previous position at the Lexington Police Department, his supervisor wrote in a memo, “Based on my observations and supervision of this officer for the past calendar year, I would not recommend him for reemployment at any time in the future.”
Lawyers have explained the difficulty in seeking criminal justice is due to the legalities of the no-knock warrant but whether or not criminal justice is served, God has a way of writing the wrongs inflicted upon his people. Tamika Palmer has made significant strides to ensure it and it’s evident from her fortitude that the civil settlement and Breonna’s Law are just the beginning.