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State Search Warrant Task Force Releases Final Report with 8 Recommendations

Kentucky's Search Warrant Task Force released its final report on Tuesday, with eight recommendations, Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office announced.

The task force, which includes three representatives from Northern Kentucky among its eighteen members, was established earlier this year. In part, Cameron's office established the task force in response to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Police last year.

The deaths of Taylor, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and other black people at the hands of law enforcement officers sparked widespread outrage and demonstrations across the country in 2020.

Cameron joined members of the Search Warrant Task Force on Tuesday to announce the release of the report which provides eight recommendations related to the securing, reviewing, and serving of search warrants in the Commonwealth.

“From the beginning, the goal of the Task Force has been to conduct a top to bottom review of the search warrant process and to make recommendations for establishing Kentucky as a national model for how search warrants should be pursued and served,” said Cameron. “The members of the Task Force carefully and deliberately undertook this charge.  The final recommendations reflect law enforcement’s role in advancing public safety and acknowledge the personal protections guaranteed by our Constitution.  I am proud of the Task Force’s work and appreciate the invaluable contributions of the 18 men and women who gave their time to this process.”

The Task Force’s eight recommendations were reached by consensus among the membership following hours of deliberation and debate, a news release said. Local members of the task force include State Rep. Ed Massey (R-Hebron), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders, and Covington Police Lieutenant Bryan Bogard, who represented the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.

The Task Force recommends:

  1. 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 back-up.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Law enforcement officers should receive search warrant-related training at the beginning of their careers and thereafter should receive updated training regularly, as determined by the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training. 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.
  5. 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 in the report.
  6. 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.
  7. Whenever the service of a search warrant may impact a minor, child protective services should be notified of that search warrant.
  8. Law enforcement bodies in the Commonwealth should adopt some form of a toolkit to guide the serving of search warrants. For a list of the items to be included in such a toolkit, the Search Warrant Task Force proposes that law enforcement bodies adopt some version of the model toolkit found in the report, which include “best practices” that may evolve to fit the needs of various localities.

The final report of the Task Force includes, among other things, the list of recommendations, a suggested toolkit for law enforcement, as well as a detailed recap of the Task Force’s work this year. 

Following the conclusion of the 2021 General Session of the General Assembly, the Task Force held monthly meetings throughout the Commonwealth to review the search warrant process. Meetings were held in Frankfort, Richmond, Louisville, Bowling Green, and Somerset.  All meetings of the Search Warrant Task Force were open to the public and the press. All meetings were also livestreamed on the Attorney General’s official Facebook page.  Archived agendas and minutes from the meetings are available here.

To accomplish its work, the Task Force established three committees—the Securing Committee, Reviewing Committee, and Serving Committee—to present and discuss recommendations for improving the search warrant process. Each committee was charged with presenting its recommendations at a monthly meeting for further discussion, review, and approval by the Task Force. 

The final recommendations, put forth by each committee, were discussed at the November 22 meeting and approved at the December 9 meeting. Each meeting also included a designated time for public comments.  

The Task Force is chaired by Cameron and is comprised of 18 members, including citizen members, representatives from law enforcement, legislators, judges, prosecutors, the Kentucky League of Cities, the Kentucky Association of Counties, the NAACP, and the public advocate. 

The membership list can be viewed here.

To view the report, click here

-Staff report