LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron released the names Thursday of the members who will serve on the Attorney General's Search Warrant Task Force.
Cameron established the task force through an executive order for the purpose of reviewing Kentucky's search warrant process. The team includes members of the community picked by the attorney general, lawmakers, state and local officials, prosecutors, law enforcement, and members representing the NAACP.
"The task force will develop best practices for the effective and safe execution of search warrants in the Commonwealth with the goal of establishing Kentucky's search warrant process as a national model," a news release states.
The following individuals will serve on the task force:
- Denise Bentley, former Democratic Louisville Metro Councilwoman, Legislative Assistant to Metro Council District 5, representing citizens at-large.
- Lieutenant Bryan Bogard, Covington Police Department, representing the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.
- Colonel Phillip Burnett Jr., Commissioner, Kentucky State Police
- Judge Foster Cotthoff, District Court Judge, 3rd Judicial District, Christian County, representing the Kentucky Court of Justice
- Judge Charles Cunningham, Circuit Court Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, representing the Kentucky Court of Justice
- Jeff Gregory, Mayor, City of Elizabethtown, representing the Kentucky League of Cities
- Nicolai Jilek, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training
- Representative Ed Massey, Chair, House Judiciary Committee
- Ramon McGee, Attorney, The Law Office of Ramon McGee, representing the Kentucky Conference of the NAACP
- Chief Joe Monroe, University of Kentucky Police Department, representing the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police
- David L. Nicholson, Circuit Court Clerk, Jefferson County, representing the Kentucky Association of Counties.
- Damon Preston, Public Advocate
- Joseph Ross, County Attorney, Logan County, Representing the Kentucky County Attorneys Association
- Rob Sanders, Commonwealth's Attorney, 16th Judicial Circuit, Representing the Kentucky Commonwealth's Attorney's Association
- Sheriff Walt Sholar, Bullitt County Sheriff's Office, Representing the Kentucky Sheriff's Association
- Detective Elizabeth Thomas, Lexington Police Department, Representing the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association
- Senator Whitney Westerfield, Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
- George Wright, Professor, Senior Advisor to the President and Vice President for Institutional Diversity, University of Kentucky, Representing citizens at-large
The task force is expected to announce the date of its first meeting in the coming days.
"I appreciate the men and women who have agreed to join the task force and give their time and knowledge in service to the Commonwealth," Cameron said in a written statement. "My hope is that the group's review of our search warrant process will improve public safety by ensuring that Kentucky utilizes best practices when securing and executing search warrants."
Denise Bentley, a former Democratic Louisville Metro Councilwoman and Legislative Assistant to Metro Council District 5 and will represent citizens at-large, told WDRB News there's a benefit to the variety of people on the task force.
"The community of Louisville and the Commonwealth have been through a very difficult process this last year," Bentley said. "I think this is an opportunity for people to come to the table together to figure out how we can improve the search warrant process so that citizens, police and the community are all safe in this process."
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also a member. He hopes the task force will investigate more specific implementations of Senate Bill 4, which restricts the use of no-knock warrants in the state.
"The Senate president worked on Senate Bill 4 and spoke with a slew of stakeholders and built consensus around the bill that I think is a tremendous effort to improve the execution and the use of no-knock warrants and to restrict the use of those warrants and to heighten the responsibility with law enforcement when they exercise such warrants," Westerfield said.
The senator also wants to revisit the effectiveness of Kentucky e‐Warrants, which former Gov. Steve Beshear said would "modernize policing in the commonwealth," in 2010.
"I don't know if it's been updated since way back then or if they are still using turn same system and using the same vendor and the same capacity and same limitations that it had in 2011-2012," Westerfield added.
The task force comes in the wake of calls for police reform that followed the March 13, 2020, raid that ended with the death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville Metro Police officers.
Cameron may face an uphill battle in convincing those who question the task force's legitimacy. Not everyone is optimistic that it will produce the change some activists want. Back in January, when Cameron signed the executive order creating the task force, criminal defense attorney Ted Shouse called the act "window dressing."
"Kentucky has a long history of blue ribbon panels and appointed commissions, and those are frequently places where ideas go to die," Shouse said. "This feels like one of those."
Shouse doubted the task force would accomplish much, since most of the people who would serve on the 19-member group would be appointees of law enforcement, prosecutors, or the attorney general himself.
Despite his skepticism, Shouse said whoever serves on the task force should consider key reforms to the search warrant process: randomly assigning judges to the officers seeking search warrants to prevent shopping, recording officers' conversations with the approving judges and being transparent with the information showing how a warrant was obtained.
"If you don't think that the Breonna Taylor case has taken a huge whack out of the public's faith in the criminal justice system, then you haven't been watching," he said. "This would be a step to restore that faith."
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