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Amash readying legislation allowing victims to sue officers

Amash readying legislation allowing victims to sue officers
© Greg Nash

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashEnergized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Ocasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones MORE (L-Mich.) plans to introduce a bill that would end the prohibition of suing police officers, the first major national legislative response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Amash, who recently switched his party affiliation to Libertarian, tweeted Sunday that the bill would "correct" what he claims to be an error made by the Supreme Court when it established the doctrine of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government officials, including police officers, from lawsuits alleging they violated a plaintiff's rights unless a “clearly established” right has been violated.

In practice, the doctrine blocks most lawsuits against individual police officers.

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"This week, I am introducing the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to eliminate qualified immunity and restore Americans’ ability to obtain relief when police officers violate their constitutionally secured rights," he wrote.

"The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is merely the latest in a long line of incidents of egregious police misconduct," Amash continued. "This pattern continues because police are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from consequences for violating the rights of the people whom they have sworn to serve. That must change so that these incidents of brutality stop happening."

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It's unclear how much support the bill will have, but aides to Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates Trump says he doesn't actually want Whitmer, Biden and Obama to be locked up despite chants MORE (D-Minn.) indicated to Reuters that it would have her support when Amash introduces it Thursday.

Police conduct has been roundly criticized in recent days following bystander video that surfaced of Floyd's death. The footage showed a former officer, Derek Chauvin, placing his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes despite Floyd's constant plea for air.

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Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder for his actions, while activists and some lawmakers have called for three other officers fired over the incident to be charged as well.

Elsewhere in the U.S., police response to protests over Floyd's death in major cities has also been criticized, including video of officers appearing to ram a crowd of protesters with a police cruiser in New York City.

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York surpasses half a million COVID-19 cases This collection of top-rated entertainment apps is now on sale for over 0 off Senate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy MORE (D) addressed that video at a press conference, explaining that he directed the state's attorney general to investigate the incident.

"I'm telling [New York City officials] that if the review looks at those videos and finds improper conduct, there will be ramifications," Cuomo said at a press conference according to NorthJersey.com.

Updated at 5:00 p.m. on 6/3/2020.