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Qualified immunity

American Police Are Basically Untouchable; How Did It Get This Bad?

The terror of police power is a recurring fact of American life, particularly in this country’s poorest communities and in communities of color. The power of officers comes not only from the strength of arms, but also from a legal system that is swift to protect its enforcers, yet slow to hold them to account. Where did this virtual immunity from prosecution come from? Has it always been this way? And if not, how has police power and impunity changed through the ages? Historian Joanna Schwartz joins The Chris Hedges report to discuss her new book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable. Joanna Schwartz is a professor of law at UCLA, where she teaches civil procedure and courses on police accountability and public interest lawyering.

Police Accountability Is A ‘Non-Starter’ Without Discarding The Qualified Immunity Doctrine

Some reps in Congress assert that dismantling qualified immunity (“QI”)—a police officer’s so-called good faith defense to a civil rights lawsuit—is a “non-starter” in negotiations to pass the George Floyd Civil Rights Act. In reality, meaningful police accountability is a non-starter without discarding QI. QI is a regressive framework which has turned federal civil rights lawsuits into sheer games of chance with bad odds. Under QI, the Supreme Court instructs judges to apply a two-pronged analysis, in a specific order: first to examine whether the right sought to be vindicated was clearly-established at the time, and second to examine whether the officer reasonably could have believed his/her conduct was lawful.

Federal Judge Tackles Police Immunity Law

As the Massachusetts legislature debates whether to water down its qualified immunity defense, a federal judge in Mississippi filed a stunning 72-page opinion blasting the doctrine. Qualified immunity has entered the national discourse with the massive uprisings in the wake of the public lynching of George Floyd. It allows police and other government officials to escape liability for their law breaking. In Jamison v. McClendon, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves recently concluded that Officer Nick McClendon violated Clarence Jamison’s Fourth Amendment rights when he subjected Jamison to a nearly two-hour ordeal that included badgering, pressuring, lying and intrusively searching his car.

Federal Judge Calls On Supreme Court To Overturn ‘Qualified Immunity’

Handing down a ruling to dismiss a civil lawsuit which alleged a police officer violated a Black man's Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop in 2013, a federal judge in Mississippi made clear that he sided with the plaintiff—and demanded the U.S. Supreme Court overturn legal precedent that makes it nearly impossible for the judicial system to hold officers accountable for rights violations.  Calling for an end to qualified immunity, which dates back to a 1982 ruling and shields police from civil liability in most cases, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves turned his ruling into a plea for justice for plaintiff Clarence Jamison as well as countless other Black Americans who have faced violent abuse and deadly use of force by officers.
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