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Northam signs legislation banning no-knock warrants in Virginia

Northam signs legislation banning no-knock warrants in Virginia
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed legislation into law that bans no-knock warrants, making it the third state to do so.

The measure was included in a set of laws geared toward advancing police and criminal justice reform that Northam signed off on Wednesday. The ban’s passage comes months after the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT who died in Kentucky after being shot by white police officers who had obtained a no-knock warrant before entering her home.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” Northam said in a statement. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

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“I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen. Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books,” he continued.

Taylor’s death in late March helped spark months of widespread protests against police brutality and racism in the nation.

She died at the age of 26 in Louisville after a trio of white officers in plainclothes arrived at her home late at night after obtaining a no-knock warrant as part of a drug case targeting her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover. Glover was not present at the time.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who handled the investigation into Taylor’s death, said the officers identified themselves that night before entering the home.

However, Kenneth Walker, who was Taylor’s boyfriend at the time, along with a number of neighbors, have pushed back on that claim. 

Walker said in an interview earlier this month that the night the police arrived at their home, he and Taylor heard a loud bang at their door, prompting them to repeatedly ask, “Who is it?”

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Walker said during the interview that he is certain “nobody identified themselves” before the police began to force their way into their apartment.

Believing the officers to be intruders, Walker grabbed his firearm, which he is licensed to carry, and fired, he has said. Taylor was killed when the officers returned fire.

“After that,” Walker said earlier this month, “I don’t think I ever heard so many gunshots, like all at the same time. I’ve never been to war but I assume that’s probably what war sounds like.” 

In a statement in late May, days after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Northam said that Floyd, Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery “and many others have been wrongfully killed, simply for being Black."

“What we see with our own eyes in Minneapolis, calls all of us to renew our commitment to working for justice—advancing cultural affirmation and respect, access to good health, education, fair housing, business opportunities, voting, and criminal justice reform. This is our shared responsibility—this is a humanity issue,” he said.

“As Governor of Virginia, I make the commitment to ensure that we continue to address these issues head on, even when it is uncomfortable and difficult because I believe our diversity is our greatest strength,” he added. 

Other measures signed by Northam on Wednesday include legislation aimed at reducing the militarization of police, limiting the circumstances in which police can use neck restraints and strengthening “the process by which law enforcement officers can be decertified and allows the Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings,” his office said.

He also signed legislation mandating police intervene when they see another officer engaging in the use of excessive force and bills his office said are geared toward empowering “localities to create civilian law enforcement review boards.”