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Legislators help police retain legal immunity


The politics of “law and order” [with Notably Common Exceptions] remain remarkably potent:

In the months after George Floyd’s murder, state legislators across the country tried to undo a legal doctrine that makes it virtually impossible to sue police officers for violating a person’s civil rights.

Fueled by outrage over the actions of former Minnesota officer Derek Chauvin, the efforts to eliminate “qualified immunity” seemed poised to usher in a new era empowering citizens who felt wronged by police.

But then, in state after state, the bills withered, were withdrawn, or were altered beyond recognition. At least 35 state qualified-immunity bills have died in the past 18 months, according to an analysis by The Washington Post of legislative records and data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The efforts failed amid multifaceted lobbying campaigns by police officers and their unions targeting legislators, many of whom feared public backlash if the dire predictions by police came true. Officers said they would go bankrupt and lose their homes. They said their colleagues would leave the profession in droves.

While advocates argued that qualified immunity allows rogue officers to brutalize citizens without paying a personal price, law enforcement officials countered that it protects police from being financially destroyed for the rapid life-or-death decisions they must make on the job.

So far, police are winning the argument nearly everywhere.

My radical view is that people who will not join the police force if they can’t violate people’s civil rights with impunity should not be police officers.

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