FRANKFORT, Ky. — After nearly a year and nine meetings worth of discussions, the Attorney General’s Search Warrant Task Force has come up with eight recommendations for reform.
“I’m proud of the work that this group has done over the course of several meetings,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron said. “And happy that we’re able to build consensus and come together for these recommendations that I think will ultimately help bolster confidence in the search warrant process and improve public safety and help our law enforcement.”
The recommendations touch on several areas:
- As soon as feasible, all state and local agencies with the authority to execute search warrants should utilize an electronic platform maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts for handling those warrants; paper copies of search warrants should be maintained as backup.
- Agencies serving search warrants should track the locations at which the warrants are served. Those locations should be regularly published in a manner that is accessible to the public. The format should allow the public to compare the number of search warrants served across various ZIP codes and regions of the Commonwealth.
- The format should not reveal the addresses for which search warrants were sought or obtained.
- In the absence of an emergency, a prosecutor should review and approve a proposed search warrant before the investigating agency seeks judicial authorization for the warrant.
- Law enforcement officers should receive search warrant-related training at the beginning of their careers and thereafter should receive updated training regularly. The curriculum should include: search warrant form and mandatory components; accurately describing the property to be searched; developing and articulating probable cause; time limitations for probable cause and execution of warrants; officer and citizen safety concerns in execution of warrants; and proper documentation of an executed search warrant.
- All law enforcement bodies should adopt, enforce, and regularly update written policies and procedures that govern the service of search warrants in their jurisdictions. An example of such policies and procedures can be found at Appendix 4.
- For every search warrant that is sought, law enforcement officers should consider, along with other relevant factors, the time of day that is most appropriate for service.
- Whenever the service of a search warrant may impact a minor, child protective services should be notified.
- Law enforcement bodies in the Commonwealth should adopt some form of a tool kit to guide the serving of search warrants.
Cameron said the recommendations are broad enough so they can work in cities like Louisville, or smaller towns and counties across the state.
“There were a lot of individuals that were apart of this process that represented all 120 counties and was proud of the work that they ultimately did.”
The draft of recommendation seven included language that said social services should be notified prior to the execution of a search warrant, but some members of the task force, including Bullitt County Sheriff Walt Sholar, wanted that removed because they were concerned about tipping off suspects.
The recommendations were approved almost unanimously. Ramon McGee, a lawyer representing the NAACP on the task force, wrote a letter criticizing recommendation three specifically. He was not present at Thursday’s meeting due to a work obligation.
Activists called for change with how search warrants are handled following the death of Breonna Taylor during the execution of a search warrant in March 2020.
Cameron said it’s his job to participate in the discussion regarding law enforcement tactics, including Taylor’s case.
“What I think you saw here, over the course of these meetings, were men and women that were well intentioned and had good faith in coming together to find ways that we can provide additional confidence in the search warrant process, but also bolster public safety, too,” he said.
The task force is going to submit these recommendations to the General Assembly so lawmakers can consider them in the upcoming session.