Kent School of Social Work Position Statement Freedom from Violence: Seeking Justice for Breonna Taylor

The University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work educates social workers to be effective practitioners at the individual and systemic levels. We teach future social workers to actively seek out and fight for social justice and, to that end, we proactively recognize that Black Lives Matter. We now lift up and name, one of our own in Louisville, the life and death of Breonna Taylor. 

We cannot accept the tragic and brutal killings of Black Americans, which now almost feels “status quo”. We must acknowledge and proactively change cultures, policies, and practices in Louisville and Kentucky that allow these events to continue.   

In this moment, the community and the nation are clamoring for answers and demanding changes to the policies and programs that disproportionately impact Black lives. The City of Louisville has civilian review boards and other solution-based programming to protect the communities who are impacted directly by the criminal justice system, whether as alleged perpetrators or victims. For example, there are currently two commissions for citizens to voice their concerns. These commissions include:

  • The Citizens Commission on Police Accountability came into existence in 2003 to review the investigations of LMPD when there were police involved shootings and incidents involving loss of life at the hands of LMPD officers.
  • The Louisville Commission on Criminal Justice is the progression of the former Crime Commission that was in place until 2003. This body is tasked with criminal justice and public safety planning, research, and collaboration with entities across the criminal justice system in the city.

We believe the policies of these groups need strengthening to make changes that are now past due. In both of these commissions, the members can only make recommendations. We recommend giving subpoena power to both of these commissions. We also believe the Commission on Policy Accountability needs to be given greater power and authority to make changes. 

As social workers, we have an ethical duty to serve the most vulnerable and to advocate for social change. We are ethically bound to work to change inequitable systems that should protect all citizens. We believe the system that ended up shooting Breonna Taylor, while sleeping in her home, needs attention.

We support the requests of their families and local organizers to sign the petition (https://action.justiceforbreonna.org/sign/BreonnaWasEssential/) that demands:

  • The Mayor and City Council address the use of force by LMPD.
  • Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.
  • Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council (#CPAC).
  • Create policy for transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct. 
  • Drop all charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who attempted to defend them and their home.
  • Release the 911 call to the public for accountability.
  • End no knock warrants. See https://www.aclu-ky.org/NoMore

We are asking that all social workers use their voices for those that are silenced. Breonna Taylor does not have a voice to speak out. We have to speak out for her. Please take a moment to share this ask and the following action so social workers are proactively part of the solution in fighting for justice for Breonna and in preventing any more senseless deaths. Otherwise, we know that silence is part of the problem. Let’s make Louisville’s goal of being an internationally recognized Compassionate City become a reality.