The officers who, in the view of any decent person, murdered Breonna Taylor have largely been allowed to get away with their outrages. One was charged with a crime, namely that of endangering people in the neighboring apartments. In other words, our justice system as represented by the prosecutor’s presentation of evidence to the grand jury has come to the conclusion that if the cops wish to kill an innocent woman, they are at last obliged not to be so enthusiastic about the process that they toss bullets around at random.
The forces of the government, of course, interpret the events differently, and many right wingers on social media claim that if only Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had complied with the armed intruders coming in, she would still be alive. These same people often confuse Walker with the target of the no-knock warrant, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, who had used Taylor’s address for a bank account and gave her address for a car that he was driving. Anyone who has ever moved, much less experienced a breakup, will understand that getting all one’s documents updated takes time. The government may wish that we took care of particular examples quickly, but people living their lives often will have other priorities. And the police should understand that whoever is officially recorded as living in a house will not necessarily be there when they come to visit — or that other people may also be present. That this reality did not give the officers pause in Louisville is precisely one of the reasons for calls to defund the police.
When the cops come to our homes, they have to wait a “reasonable time” before forcing entry. How long is reasonable? The Supreme Court has accepted a period of fifteen to twenty seconds — that is seconds, a fourth to a third of a minute — in past rulings, and I would like to test the justices and any law enforcement officers who support this absurdity on how long it takes them to awaken after a noise — how loud is not specified — and then what length of time they need to work out what is going on around them. Call me biased, but if my door gets smashed in during the wee hours of the morning, I will regard that as a violent assault that justifies my use of force to stop it.
The excuses for no-knock warrants and rapid entry are that drug suspects may attempt to destroy evidence while the officers wait and that the officers may be put in danger if the occupants of the home have time to respond. This assumes that sending cops around to enter homes in the middle of the night is a social good that ought to be protected and continued. If there is a reasonable belief, for example, that a victim of violence — kidnapped person, abused domestic partner, etc. — is to be found inside, I can see a justification for officers to go in without giving a lot of warning, if that will achieve the rescue of the victim. But it is clear that allowing such tactics in our war on drugs has put people in danger and has led to an erosion of our rights.
The solution to all of this is to legalize drugs and to include addiction treatment in Medicare for All. No one’s life was at risk in Breonna Taylor’s home until the police showed up. The latter had no reason to believe that any crime was being committed at that time — no, their sloppiness with regard to the ex-boyfriend is not reason. And in any case, if as a country we had agreed that making recreation criminal has done no good, nor has making a medical condition criminal, either, Breonna Taylor and many others would still be alive. Many more would not have had their lives damaged by pointless criminal records. Billions of dollars would not have been wasted. And we would be a step farther along the path to recognizing that what we do in private is our own business, our own personal autonomy, not properly subject to government intrusion.
To my fellow gun owners who are supporting the police here, I ask you to imagine yourself asleep when you hear a crash. You have no reason to expect anyone up to a good purpose to be coming in. You hear people entering your home.
What would you do?