Justice for Breonna Taylor

Anthony Lopez, Staff Writer

On March 13, Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home. More than six months later, the clamoring for justice voiced by the thousands who march down the streets of America in protest has far from dissipated. 

That can largely be attributed to the recent indictment of one of the officers involved in the shooting. While all three officers were placed on administrative reassignment following the murder, only one officer, Brett Hankison, was fired and later charged. Yet the circumstances of his release were less about his participation in the loss of Taylor’s life and more about violating departmental policies. It is worth noting, as well, that Hankison had a history of reckless conduct prior to Taylor’s death. 

The outcry that followed the shooting, in tandem with the murder of George Floyd, was a vocal response and condemnation of the lack of regard for Black lives from police and the law enforcement system. It is not difficult to sympathize with such sentiments, particularly when the other two officers are currently still members of law enforcement and do not have any charges placed against them. The Sept. 23 indictment from a state grand jury charged Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment. Yet it was not for the endangerment of those found inside Taylor’s apartment; rather, it was for a neighboring white family whose apartment was penetrated by bullets. Curiously, charges were not raised concerning the risk posed to another neighboring apartment, which housed a Black family and was also caught in the crossfire.

Of course, none of this is true “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” a slogan found in the distraught and angered cries of countless who have protested in her name. While some reparations have been made, including paying Taylor’s family a settlement of $12 million, the real action that needs to be taken is that in the name of accountability. It is not enough for the Louisville system to apologize and promise to do better. The only way that this promise can be proven is by honoring Taylor and ensuring that her death was not in vain. 

It is fortunate that in June the Louisville city council passed the Breonna Taylor Act, which would effectively ban no-knock search warrants. Such a policy has been raised in the U.S Senate, as well. This is a step in a positive direction, but it falls woefully short of the desired accountability desired by so many. The confirmation of such policies rings painfully hollow when only one of the three men involved in Taylor’s murder was charged — and only for nearly harming someone else in the vicinity. The use of Taylor’s name as a policy feels more like compensation for a lack of true justice.

Such legislation helps solve a problem in an ancillary manner. The issue itself was not merely the manner in which they entered Taylor’s home. It was the lack of restraint shown by the officers and the clear lack of consequence found in the aftermath. A total of 32 rounds were shot into the apartment, six of which hit Taylor. Such an absurd form of retaliation only serves to indicate a lack of regard for proper conduct. 

How can such clear acts of injustice be deterred if those involved are consistently let off the hook? Or if those who act with reckless abandon in their line of work are merely cited as “bad apples,” rather than understood as part of a larger system that permits such behavior?

True change can not come from small steps. Rather, sweeping changes for reform have to occur in order to recondition a system of enforcement that has proven itself to be largely unconcerned with consequences and committed to defending its most violent members. Ignoring the officers involved in Taylor’s murder and focusing on a much lesser charge is far from justice, but rather a farce and a disservice to her name.

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