State Attorney General Daniel Cameron took office in early 2020 with an ambitious agenda to confront serious criminal issues such as human trafficking, child abuse and the state’s drug epidemic.
The onset of the pandemic in March affected the Attorney General’s Office much as it did every other office.
“Although there have been numerable challenges this year because of COVID-19 … I’m pleased to report we have been able to make significant steps” in each of the department’s goals, Cameron said in a recent year-end interview.
Cameron’s first year in office was highlighted both by the pandemic, which called for his office to investigate and respond to COVID-19 scam reports, and by the shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers during a late-night incident at Taylor’s home.
Cameron’s office presented the case surrounding Taylor’s death to a grand jury that resulted in one LMPD officer being indicted for felony wanton endangerment. Two other officers involved in the incident were not indicted.
Cameron’s office partnered with federal officials to investigate COVID-19 scams, and the office created a specific COVID-19 consumer protection enforcement unit to investigate pandemic-related scams.
“There have been numerous scams and issues of price gouging” the office has investigated, Cameron said. Through its investigations, “we have been able to recover roughly $28 million for Kentuckians.”
Similarly, Cameron’s office of rate intervention argued cases before the Public Service Commission, he said.
“We have been able to save ratepayers to the tune of $18 million,” Cameron said.
On human trafficking, Cameron said his office advocated during the legislative session for House Bill 2, a human trafficking bill sponsored by Owensboro Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles.
House Bill 2, which became law, places people convicted of sex offenses involving human trafficking on the state’s sex offender registry. The bill requires the posting of educational notices at places such as airports, bus stops and truck stops. The notices include the state’s human trafficking hotline so people could report suspected trafficking.
Before the bill became law, “there was no signage” alerting people to human trafficking, Cameron said. In addition, the office also created a public education campaign about human trafficking with a grant from the Department of Justice. The media campaign on human trafficking will be launched in the near future, he said.
“It takes many forms,” Cameron said. Human trafficking can involve sex trafficking and forced labor.
The agency also created a “tool kit” to help prosecutors and law enforcement investigate and prosecute reports of child abuse.
“We have some of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the country,” Cameron said. The tool kit was geared toward teaching investigators “what to look for and what to ask” when researching child abuse complaints.
“These are very complicated issues to pursue in terms of prosecution,” Cameron said. The hope is the took kit will “provide a framework for prosecutors and investigators to use” in child abuse cases, he said.
Cameron said his office also intervened for churches and religious schools against orders Gov. Andy Beshear issued as a result of the pandemic. Cameron’s office was recently part of a lawsuit filed by Kentucky religious schools against Beshear’s order that schools go to all-virtual learning. Beshear’s order was upheld.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding Beshear’s executive order, Cameron said, “I’m comfortable about our position … the Governor can’t infringe on a constitutionally protected right.”
Attending a religious school is an act of religious expression protected in the constitution, he said.
In 2021, “We are going to continue to stand up in this office for constitutional values,” Cameron said.