By Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch - Salon
Six months after her death, Breonna Taylor's killers are still looking for drugs. In March, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrived at Taylor's door under the pretext of a drug raid, used a "no knock" warrant to enter, and killed her while she slept. No drugs were ever found, but now prosecutors in the case have offered a plea deal to another suspect, urging him to name Taylor as a co-defendant in a drug syndicate in exchange for reduced charges.
This isn't a new approach by law enforcement. Taylor's death magnifies the mechanism by which too many instances of violence and police misconduct, especially against people of color, are often rationalized: by pinning it on drug involvement.
At a time when advocates across the country are calling for reprioritizing funding for traditional law enforcement, it's essential that reforms also include the removal of draconian and overly punitive drug laws, which are at the heart of why so many Black people are harassed, arrested and imprisoned by police in the first place. Black people are almost four times as likely as their white counterparts to be arrested on marijuana charges, despite similar rates of consumption.
When it comes to their conduct, police officers have demonstrated that they will exploit drug use in just about every instance. The defense attorney for former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin recently argued that illicit drugs identified in George Floyd's toxicology report at the time of his death caused Floyd's death — not Chauvin's knee on his neck for eight minutes. The 2016 shooting of Philando Castile was supposedly justified because Officer Jeronimo Yanez, in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Anthony, smelled "burnt marijuana" and felt afraid.