What's Changed 1 Year After The Killing Of Breonna Taylor?
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It's been one year since a team of plainclothes police officers forced their way into the Louisville apartment of a young Black woman named Breonna Taylor. She was 26 years old, an emergency room technician planning to go back to school to further her career in medicine. Police were looking for evidence of drug dealing that they never found. Breonna Taylor's death at the hands of those officers fed a national wave of protests against police brutality and systemic racism. And now on this anniversary, we're going to look at whether some of the factors that contributed to her death have changed. Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott participated in the marches over the last year and introduced legislation in Breonna Taylor's name.
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Good to talk to you again.
ATTICA SCOTT: Thank you so much, Ari. I'm honored to be here.
SHAPIRO: Can you first just tell us how you're thinking about this week, this tragic anniversary?
SCOTT: It's heavy - I mean, extremely heavy. And I continue to hold Breonna's family in prayer. Just this week, we were able to present Breonna's Law to the Judiciary Committee, so that was extremely important to bring Breonna into the room and her story and this policy movement that we're working on. And then as we get to Saturday, March 13, where there's a whole day of activities planned, I'd look into the eyes of my friends who are organizing many of those activities. And I see the weariness in their eyes, but also the hopefulness that's in their gait, that's in their bounce when they walk. So it's heavy, and there still remains hope.
SHAPIRO: Now, Breonna's Law, which you mentioned, would ban no-knock warrants, among other things. There is also a Republican version of this legislation that does not go quite as far as your bill, and Republicans control Kentucky's state government. Do you think something is going to get done on the legislative front?
SCOTT: Yes. So when we had the hearing in Judiciary, we heard both bills. Our bill, House Bill 21, the people's - Breonna's Law was heard for discussion only. Senate Bill 4, which is to restrict the use of certain no-knock warrants in certain situations, did pass the committee. And there was a commitment from the chair and vice chair of the committee to look at some of the amendments that we plan to propose that will pull some of what is in our bill into the bill that was passed.
SHAPIRO: What are the differences, and what's really important to you that be in there when this negotiation is done?
SCOTT: House Bill 21 was created with a community, and it included banning no-knock warrants. Senate Bill 4 restricts the use of no-knock warrants in certain situations. House Bill 21 mandated alcohol and drug testing of officers who are involved in deadly incidences like the murder of Breonna Taylor. Senate Bill 4 does not include that. Our bill, House Bill 21, was named after Breonna Taylor. It is called Breonna's Law for Kentucky. Senate Bill 4 did not reference Breonna Taylor in any form or fashion. So those are just the high-level differences that have been really important for people as they've wanted to know a little bit more about the difference between the two measures.
SHAPIRO: Legislation is one way to look at what's changed. Another is accountability. No one involved in Breonna Taylor's death was charged with anything related to her death at all. A new chief of police took charge of the department in January. Do you see change on that front?
SCOTT: Not yet. Justice has not been served. Folks on the front lines are very clear that they are continuing to call for all of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor's murder to be fired, arrested and charged for her murder. They have not wavered from those demands.
SHAPIRO: What path forward do you see on that, given that a grand jury declined to indict them last year?
SCOTT: Well - and members of that grand jury also spoke up immediately and said that they were not given all of the options that were available to them. And in fact, a couple of them filed papers to impeach Attorney General Daniel Cameron here in Kentucky. So there were some very...
SHAPIRO: Options meaning, like, lesser charges or things like that?
SCOTT: Yes, exactly - and more information about the case that was not granted to them. So they've spoken up. And just this week, I sent a letter to our new U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, asking him to fully investigate the murder of Breonna Taylor. We have to continue to push on those kinds of resources that exist for all of us across this country if we want to get justice.
SHAPIRO: Now, when you and I met in Louisville last June, you told me that the protests were not just about Breonna Taylor. They were not just about police violence. You said they were about a more deep-seated racial inequity. Have you seen any changes on that front?
SCOTT: It's been almost a year, and we have seen very little change in all of the economic and social dynamics that impact people across Louisville and across Kentucky, whether you live in the West End of Louisville, where I live, that's predominantly Black. We haven't seen much change at all in the economic and social issues. I still wake up in the middle of the night to train horns, and I still have to leave my neighborhood...
SHAPIRO: We talked about how there are quiet zones in the more wealthy white parts of Louisville, but there are not quiet zones as the train goes by in the middle of the night in the less wealthy Black neighborhoods.
SCOTT: Exactly. Where I live, there are no quiet zones. Kids who are supposed to be able to function the next day, even in their online classrooms, didn't get a good night's sleep because they were awakened in the middle of the night by trains. That hasn't changed. And yet, we still are very loud in our demands. We're very clear that we must address those issues that make it difficult for people to thrive. Black folks are tired of surviving. We want to thrive. And so these needs have to be met in order for that to be possible.
SHAPIRO: One more way of looking at what has changed is representation. And the first time I interviewed you, I described you as the only Black woman serving in the Kentucky state legislature. I understand that's no longer the case.
SCOTT: That's correct, Ari. We now have two Black women who are serving in the state legislature.
SHAPIRO: You've doubled the number.
SCOTT: We - Ari, that's what I asked for people when I was first elected - please double the number. And they did. So now Colonel Pamela Stevenson is the second Black woman serving. And we also have Representative Nima Kulkarni, who is the only Indian immigrant ever elected to serve in state office.
SHAPIRO: When you look beyond Louisville, beyond Kentucky, more broadly, can you talk about what you see as the ripples of Breonna Taylor's life and death across the country?
SCOTT: It's been amazing. And Ari, I will say it's international. In 2020, I know I spoke to at least half a dozen international agencies that were interested in what was happening in Louisville, Ky., with Breonna Taylor and the movement for justice for her. And across the country, we've seen cities and states who are passing Breonna's Laws or no-knock warrant legislation. So we see that policy movement that's happening across the country. We also see people being very clear that the movement for Black lives is about police accountability. And it's also about the issues that you and I talked about in June of 2020, that we have to address the economic and social needs of folks so that they can thrive.
SHAPIRO: Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott, thank you so much for talking with us once again.
SCOTT: Thank you so much, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.