State Representative Lisa Willner to file bills protecting protesters, de-militarizing police

Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky (WEHT) Kentucky State Representative Lisa Willner plans to file three bills aiming to protect the safety and legal rights of protesters by stopping the militarization of police and limiting intimidating and potentially harmful tactics used by law enforcement.

“The Louisville Metro Police Department’s response to last year’s Breonna Taylor protests made it abundantly clear that the law must change,” Rep. Willner said.

State Representative Attica Scott is primary co-sponsor of all three bills.

“We expect our police officers to enforce the law, not use it as another weapon against those they are sworn to serve and protect,” Rep. Scott said. 

Representative Willner’s three bills will be filed in the Kentucky House of Representatives Monday and be considered during this year’s ongoing legislative session.

The first has four main provisions:

  • Ban law enforcement agencies from receiving such military surplus equipment as armored and/or weaponized drones, combat-ready aircraft, military-grade surveillance equipment, armored vehicles and grenade launchers.
  • Require de-escalation and crisis-intervention training for law enforcement that is equal to the number of hours for deadly force training.
  • Clarify that use of rubber bullets, tear-gas and long-range acoustic devices are only justifiable when a law enforcement officer “believes that such force is necessary to protect another person from imminent serious physical injury or death.”
  • Outlaw the use of kettling, which occurs when law enforcement corrals a crowd it wants to control into a closed-off space and refuses to let it disperse.

Those found in violation of the last two provisions could lose training funding provided by the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program (KLEFP) for up to five years and be subject to complaints filed with the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council.

The second bill clarifies that it is not unlawful for a person to record or photograph police in the public performance of their duties. The officer would have no authority to stop the recording or to arrest the person making the recording if that is all they are doing.

The third bill adds much more clarity to Kentucky’s riot and unlawful assembly statutes.  Riot in the first degree, for example, would become more specific by stating it is five or more people who knowingly engage in violent or unlawful behavior causing a public disturbance that creates a substantial imminent risk of property damage or physical injury.

Rep. Willner said she is introducing this bill in response to last year’s arrest of Rep. Scott, Rep. Scott’s daughter Ashanti, racial-justice activist Shameka Parrish-Wright and others on a felony rioting charge and a misdemeanor charge.

“That was nothing more than retribution against Representative Scott and others, and the law should never be misused this way,” Representative Willner said.  “While charges were later dropped, this was completely uncalled for.  I want to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

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(This story was originally published on January 10, 2021)

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