Protesters who’ve spent more than 110 days calling for justice for Breonna Taylor said a $12 million settlement that includes several police changes is a step toward closure for the city and the 26-year-old’s family.
But they won’t be satisfied until the officers who shot and killed the unarmed Black woman are fired and criminally charged in relation to her death, several protesters said after the announcement.
“Yes, it’s a pretty decent settlement. Breonna’s family deserves that and a million times more,” said Delaney Haley, a community organizer who has been a regular at protests. “But we won’t have true justice until the cops who did that have to face some kind of repercussions. Fire, arrest, indict, convict. It’s just that simple.”
The demand has remained consistent since protests began in Louisville on May 28, more than two months after Taylor was killed during a narcotics investigation at her apartment.
Several protesters said any settlement seems like a “slap in the face” as long as officers involved in Taylor’s death remain on the city’s payroll.
Officer Bret Hankison was fired in June for his role in the shooting. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officer Myles Cosgrove, who also returned fire at Taylor’s home after Taylor’s boyfriend shot Mattingly, as well as Detective Joshua Jaynes, who applied for a “no-knock” search warrant at her address, remain on administrative reassignment.
“It still does not give closure to that mother who wakes up every day knowing that the men who killed her daughter are getting paid off the backs of taxpayers,” said Shemaeka Shaw, founder of the Broken Hearted Homes Renters Association, a community organization that works to prevent evictions.
Mayor Greg Fischer “could have fired them a long time ago and worried about court cases down the line,” Shaw said.
City officials and attorneys for Taylor’s family announced the settlement during a news conference Tuesday, where Fischer laid out a series of changes involving search warrants, community relations, and police accountability.
The changes include establishing a housing credit program to encourage officers to live within certain low-income census tracts; retaining social workers to support and assist officers on dispatched runs; and requiring a commanding officer to review and approve all search warrants before an officer seeks judicial approval.
Tyra Walker, a special education teacher who co-chairs the Kentucky Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression, said she’s happy the city will hire mental health specialists to work within the police department, but more reforms and community input are needed if Louisville wants to fully improve equality within its criminal justice system.
“We will continue to push for policy change because if we don’t change the policies, we will be back here fighting the same fight 50 years from now, if not sooner. … A change is going to come, and it is going to be a long fight and hard work,” Walker said. “And I’m willing to put in that work.”
During the news conference, attorneys representing Taylor’s family and other speakers agreed that the changes in the settlement are just one step toward achieving justice for Taylor.
Without any reforms, attorney Lonita Baker said, a settlement between the city and Taylor’s family was “non-negotiable.”
“We recognize that this reform is not all-encompassing and there’s still work to be done,” Baker said. “We commit our time, our talent and our resources to continue to work with the community to fight the systemic racism plague in our city.”
Haley agreed the changes are a good start toward improving the police department, but she said she’s wary of incremental changes to a system designed to “oppress people of color.”
“Reforms in such a biased, corrupt system, it sounds good, but we’ve kind of seen these things happen before where they may be doled out to pacify people,” she said. “I’m hoping that’s not the case with this. I hope it’s true reform and makes a large difference in the community. I guess we’ll see.”