Talk:Killing of Breonna Taylor

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Lead is still a bit unbalanced: "when three white police officers... forced entry"[edit]

I am foreseeing an issue with trying to describe the race(s) of the officers involved. The lead currently states that "three white police officers... forced entry" into the apartment. However, there were more officers than those three who were involved in the forced entry. For instance... how about the officer with the battering ram? Why is he (she?) not front and center in this list? According to an NYT source, there were around "eight or 10 officers". Why are they not all listed as being involved in the forced entry? Upon identifying them, must we also clarify their race? Ender and Peter 20:39, 5 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Seems that those are the only three officers to have fired.[1] Presumably why they have gotten most of the attention. This recently from Reuters still identifies the officers with "white". Perhaps reword about which officers forced entry and who specifically fired shots?—Bagumba (talk) 01:34, 6 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I greatly appreciate the additional information. I do not dispute that those three officers were the only ones who fired, nor that several articles identify those officers as white. The problem with the current phrasing is how it singles out those three as the ones who forced entry, as though they acted independently. Clearly, this was a much bigger operation and other officers actually breached the door. Problems will arise when trying to identify these individuals, let alone their race. It is unclear why the race of the officers who shot is significant but the races of other officers involved are not.
My main concern is that if this article continues a trend of feeling obligated to identify the race of individuals involved, then it is going to have severe neutrality issues, which I fear it is already exhibiting.
And although several articles do use the word "plainclothes" to describe them, it is notable that they had tactical vests, and one had a shield while another had a battering ram. We should reconsider repeating this phrase. Ender and Peter 16:23, 6 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
...trend of feeling obligated to identify the race of individuals involved...: The past consensus has been that it's WP:DUE based on mention in sources. There's no other "obligation" that Wikipedia has w.r.t. race. It seems that the three officers are the most frequently discussed, and worthy of mention in the lead. AFAIK, the identity of the others in the raid is not as prevalent, and can at most be mentioned in the body, if there's relevant coverage. Still, I agree the lead can be tweaked to not imply that those three officers were the only ones who helped force entry.—Bagumba (talk) 04:01, 7 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you very much for this conversation. Sorry, I usually communicate in walls of text, so I sincerely appreciate you reading.
I just watched the video that the first sentence of the lead uses as a source. It does not describe the races of the individuals involved. Also, in the 3D reconstruction in the video, where the police are wearing body gear that says "POLICE" I might point out, and in the comments from the narrator, they plainly acknowledge that more than three people were involved in the forced entry, a point which I appreciate you acknowledging. I agree with you that naming the three officers who shot, as they are very understandably front and center, and clarifying their involvement are appropriate.
Yes, there are sources that specify the race of the individuals, but at the moment this article is unduly using these descriptions.
The issue is more with the manner in which this information is presented. I am not saying that race should not be mentioned at all here. As has been pointed out in previous discussions, clearly race is significant in understanding peoples' reaction to this event. But simply repeating certain words and phrases only because they are in other sources is going to make this article say things that it does not intend to say. Some of these sources have strong biases, or are intentionally communicating certain ideas to their audience. This is going to happen with newspapers, given that they target a very different audience than encyclopedias.
I recommend an edit very much akin to another related discussion I left comments on above. I suggest that the lead start with a summary more faithful to the information provided by the NYT video, regarding multiple people forcing entry and no commentary on race. This video is very appropriate for the first source introducing the reader to all of this information. Even though I dispute some of their conclusions, the information they present is very important and laid out comprehensively.
Sentences following the initial one should talk more about the racial questions that have emerged, being careful to pinpoint who has been asking these questions. A direct quote is not always required, but a summary of viewpoints needs to be expressed in a neutral manner so that it is clear that Wikipedia is not endorsing such a viewpoint. For instance, Daily Beast is a bit more biased on how they talk about these questions of race as though these questions are coming out of thin air and they are not the ones in fact asking them indirectly. Whereas Courier Journal, left-leaning as it may be, is much more careful to say who has made what statements about race so as to make clear they are not the ones making these statements.
I will put some thought into how to do this, but please tell me what you think. Thank you. Ender and Peter 17:26, 7 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"plainclothes": IIRC, there was some pics of the officers wearing gear and body cameras before the raid, but was there any confirmation one way or the other what they actually wore during the raid? I don't think they ultimately used cameras, or at least there is no footage. AFAIK, "plainclothers" means not in official police uniform, not that they can't have gear on.—Bagumba (talk) 04:01, 7 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've put more thought into this. I think I have a good plan for less confusion about how race is talked about in the lead. The best solution is to make clear why race is significant in this case.
Some bias, or perhaps at least the appearance, may still be present and is probably unavoidable. By not saying certain things, it very well may appear that something else is being said. Nevertheless, we can continue to fine tune this article to near perfection, as far as making it an indisputable paragon of truth.
By the way, I invite anyone who cares about this article to join this discussion, because I plan to alter the lead and a lot of feedback would be greatly appreciated. I enjoy talking with Bagumba, but it would be excellent to hear from more readers/editors.
As I survey this list, I notice a few trends:
  • It is customary to mention the age and race of the article subject in the first sentence. The term African-American is used the most often.
  • Leads with no source tend to describe the race of the offender(s) while sourced leads tend not to. I am seeing this adhered to with very few exceptions, such as Killing of Tamir Rice
Bearing this in mind, here is what I propose. Where you see an ellipsis () is text left untouched:

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman, was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13, 2020, when at least seven police officers forced entry into the apartment as part of an investigation into drug dealing operations. Three police officers: Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) were involved in the shooting.1

The shooting of Taylor by white police officers, and the lack of charges for her death, led to numerous protests that added to those across the United States against police brutality and racism.2

Note how even though the source does not mention Taylor's age or race, this is nevertheless included to be consistent with similar articles, and this information is found in the sources here. Also note that although the text directly states that the officers are white, it is done so specifically in the context of what is said in the referenced source.
Ender and Peter 08:57, 11 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Bagumba and Firefangledfeathers: I hope you don't mind the ping. I figured you are both interested in this discussion.
If there are no objections, I'm going to go ahead and make this change. I was hoping more editors/readers might share their views so we could be sure to talk about it before making an edit, but I'm taking the absence of disagreement as agreement. If not, I do hope we can talk more here.
I have a strong feeling this edit will help readers understand how what happened to Breonna Taylor plays a part in discussions about racial discrimination, in a manner that maintains objectivity and clarity. Ender and Peter 21:05, 17 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Firefangledfeathers: Thanks for the recent edit. I'm glad to know you are okay with these changes in general.
I do understand feeling compelled to talk about the racial component earlier in the lead because that context does seem to be an aspect that makes what happened to Taylor particularly notable. I did first consider finding a way to do that, however I realized that it is best to let the text/sources speak for themselves. The two sources on the sentence "Three Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers..." do mention the race of the officers. Even if they do not explicitly setup the context, there is at least some attempt to do so.
For instance, Breonna Taylor: Police officer charged but not over death says "Ms Taylor's relatives and activists for whom her death has become a rallying cry had been calling for the three officers, who are all white, to be charged with murder or manslaughter." We are given some reason to understand why their race is being mentioned. Even though "racial discrimination" is not specifically brought up, the fact that relatives and activists have made a rallying cry communicates why race might be significant. The language in this Wikipedia article should be more explicit, though. That way, there will be much less confusion as to why race is mentioned.
Likewise, in Breonna Taylor’s Life Was Changing. Then the Police Came to Her Door, the article talks about responses from Oprah Winfrey, and then Beyoncé who called for the "three white officers who opened fire to be criminally charged". Statements by prominent black women leaders talking about the race of the officers clearly communicates that they suspect racial discrimination was involved.
In the lead here, as it is currently setup anyway, it seems like the best place to start talking about racial components is when the lead mentions discussions on discrimination and impartial treatment that surround this incident. I fear that if we were to add "Three white Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers..." to the beginning, I'm quite sure that would bring up the original issue of why the article is talking about race without first explicitly laying out some context.
I would also point out that sending seven or more police officer's to one's door might already sound like overkill to a rational reader, in addition to the difference in bullets shot on either side along with the aftermath of consequences, all which should prime the reader for later extrapolations on why there have been strong accusations of unfair treatment. Ender and Peter 21:40, 19 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Semi-protected edit request on 17 March 2022[edit]

Change “plainclothes officers” to officers in uniform. This info is based on the book “12 seconds in the dark” by Sgt. John Mattingly. 2601:601:8480:4FE0:4DB6:3583:C087:CC7E (talk) 00:55, 17 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

 Not done for now: please establish a consensus for this alteration before using the {{edit semi-protected}} template. We generally use secondary sources.—Bagumba (talk) 01:22, 17 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Reference to "12 Seconds in the Dark: A Police Officer's Firsthand Account of the Breonna Taylor Raid"[edit]

This article should include a link to the first-hand account by John Mattingly. ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09QMHD92K — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:246:D80:BC0:64F3:3F4B:DBC0:59A3 (talk) 16:39, 10 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's a WP:PRIMARY source published by a division of The Daily Wire, which is listed as not reliable at WP:RSP. At best, it might only be worth mentioning as far as reliable, WP:SECONDARY sources discuss it.—Bagumba (talk) 16:50, 10 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Plainclothes officers and "knock-and-announce"[edit]

I am wary of the lead's treatment of these two topics, but currently unsure how to address this.

I agree with Bagumba that it may be difficult to confirm what exactly the officers wore other than body armor, but there does not appear to be dispute about the presence of the battering ram and shields. Although "plainclothes" is a repeated term throughout the sources, it may not be all too relevant if neither side could see each other. It is hard to see the significance of their uniforms in this case.

As intrigued by Mattingly's first-hand account as I am, I share Bagumba's concern that his book was published by a very far-right publication like The Daily Wire. I should note that I share a similar discomfort with The Daily Beast for being very far-left.

The "knock-and-announce" issue has been highly contentious. It looks like there is at least agreement on the "knock" part, in that Walker and neighbors described loud banging. We should be very critical of Walker's statements, and careful not to inadvertently portray them as statements of fact. Fortunately, some body cam footage after the shooting is widely available. In this video, you will notice contradictions in his statements versus information that has since been confirmed. He clearly says that it was Breonna who shot at the police, and he seems a bit slow to realize that he was dealing with the police the entire time. It is understandable they found it difficult to rely on his information and were compelled to clear the unit before tending to Breonna. And so, when the lead says "Walker said he did not hear any announcement, thought the officers were intruders, and fired a warning shot at them", we should be careful that this does not come across as a definitive assessment. Ender and Peter 20:21, 17 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Saying "Walker said..." meets WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV, in that it's attributed to Walker, as opposed to being a fact stated in Wikipedia's voice e.g. "Walker did not hear..." The reader is left to judge the credibility of Walker and his statement.—Bagumba (talk) 01:17, 18 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We should be very critical of Walker's statements...: We write what reliable sources say and analyze about what happened. Wikipedia isn't the one that's being critical, per se. Witnesses retract statements all the time. We reflect what sources say, applying WP:DUE.—Bagumba (talk) 01:17, 18 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The placement of Walker's statement may be adding undue weight. In the lead, his statement appears to be the only thing refuting the claim that the police announced themselves. Walker has made a handful of contradictions/retractions, making the accuracy of this claim questionable. Again, he initially told police that it was Breonna who fired a shot. Later, in the formal police interview, he says he was the one who fired. Eventually, as shown in a source article, one of Walker's lawyer's pushes the theory that Mattingly was actually shot by friendly fire. As I review the Detroit News article, I should correct myself in acknowledging there was a brief point where each side saw each other before Walker's shot. He says that if he knew it was the police, he would not have fired. I do not understand why police must wear "official" uniforms for others to be convinced that they are in fact police. People who are not police could wear such a thing and theoretically obtain similar equipment. Walker's confusing and contradicting statements should be given little weight, if any.
As far as statements by neighbors about what exactly they heard... I think that this clip from Hankinson's trial of one of the upstairs neighbors being confronted with a tape of him telling a detective that he heard the police announce themselves is demonstrative of the bizarre confusion about this. Initially, he outright denies he ever said such a thing. Eventually, when presented with audio, he says he does not remember saying it. Also, please listen to/watch this clip of another police interview with the neighbor who reiterates that the police announced themselves. Ender and Peter 23:27, 18 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The placement of Walker's statement may be adding undue weight. In the lead, his statement appears to be the only thing refuting the claim that the police announced themselves. Walker has made a handful of contradictions/retractions, making the accuracy of this claim questionable.: The placement of Walker's story is consistent with that Detroit News link giving it prominent mention. It also seems to serve the reader to understand why the changes against Walker were dropped for firing at the police. The details about a witness saying the police announced themselves are in the body. FWIW (and stated already in the WP article), the witness also changed their story, originally saying, "nobody identified themselves".—Bagumba (talk) 04:36, 19 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That is the very witness that the video clips I shared from Hankinson's trial refer to: Aaron Sarpee, the man who came to pick up his child from a babysitter. Even though his lawyer said "Sarpee never indicated that police announced themselves effectively", you can plainly hear what he says on tape in the video clips of Hankinson's trial. Also both sides in the trial stipulated that Sarpee indeed stated that the police announced themselves, making clear that they will not argue about that fact. I think the certainty by which Sarpee asserts that the police identified themselves in the recordings is worth noting in the lead. How is this less significant than Walker's statements? It is a shame how difficult independent verification on this has been. Ender and Peter 21:59, 20 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]