Bass: 'Essential' for police reform bill to address qualified immunity

Bass: 'Essential' for police reform bill to address qualified immunity
© Greg Nash

Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail Lawmakers say police reform talks are over MORE (D-Calif.), one of the three lawmakers leading negotiating on police reform, says it’s "essential" for qualified immunity, a sticking point in the talks, to be addressed in the final bill.

During an interview with The Washington Post, Bass said she “wasn’t prepared” to offer her colleagues a bill that does not address qualified immunity, even it she gets everything else that she wants in the legislation.

“I’m not prepared to do that,” Bass said. “I think qualified immunity is essential to be in the bill.”

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The qualified immunity doctrine shields state and local government officials, including police officers, from most liability in civil suits unless they clearly violated a person’s civil rights.

Bass further said that qualified immunity has been “wreaking havoc” in court rooms for years, and that the issue needs to be resolved.

“Qualified immunity is not a law, it is a court decision that has been wreaking havoc on court rooms around the country for years,” Bass said. “This is something that has needed to be resolved for a very long time. Now, is our opportunity to do that.”

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Bass sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the House passed in March. It would do away with qualified immunity, but Republicans oppose doing so. 

Bass is in negotiations with Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail Lawmakers say police reform talks are over MORE (R-S.C.) on police reform. The trio said on Monday that they “remained optimistic” about a compromise.

Democrats argue that nixing qualified immunity would hold officers accountable for their actions. Republicans say that doing away with those protections makes it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) hinted that he would be willing to compromise on qualified immunity, telling CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday he “will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect.”

Booker said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he’s focused on eliminating qualified immunity.