LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 8, 2021) – A local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has filed a lawsuit to block Lexington’s ban on no-knock warrants.

The new city ordinance bans the use of “no-knock” warrants and creates a set of standards police must follow when exercising search/arrest warrants. Law enforcement officers serving warrants in the city are now required to knock on the door and clearly and loudly announce their presence – waiting at least 15 seconds before entering premises. They must also wear body cameras during the execution of the warrant.

The Lexington Fayette Urban County Council passed the ordinance by a 10-5 vote.

The suit filed by FOP Bluegrass Lodge #4 claims the ordinance violates the city’s collective bargaining agreement with police officers. According to the suit, officers have a right to bargain when it comes to changes in police department policy. The suit also claims the ban on no-knock warrants could jeopardize the health and safety of officers and that a state law passed this year that limits but doesn’t ban no-knock warrants supersedes the county ordinance.

Black Faith Leaders pushed for the no-knock ban. In a statement, the organization said the community needs to have input on policing.

“The ability of Lexingtonians to influence how we are policed is fundamental to the kind of community policing that will be necessary to curb criminal activity in our city. Unfortunately, the FOP does not seem to appreciate that reality. Hopefully, the courts will agree that the city cannot collectively bargain that ability away. It’s time to move on to the next steps in achieving racial justice and equity for our community.”

On its Facebook page, the FOP chapter said it is “committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our members, even if city officials are not.”

“Officer safety” is often invoked when police want to violate people’s rights with impunity.

In 2017, the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government and the Lexington Police Department sued me when I tried to get information about the city’s surveillance programs through an open records request. The LPD claimed that information relating to surveillance could jeopardize officer safety. You can judge for yourself whether the police argument held any weight.

In this case, the police department couldn’t sue the city council because they are both parts of the same entity – the city. The FOP suit is clearly on behalf of the police department. It will be interesting to see how the city spins the officer safety argument now that the shoe is on the other foot.

Mike Maharrey

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