Markey, Harris, Booker to introduce resolution calling for elimination of qualified immunity

Markey, Harris, Booker to introduce resolution calling for elimination of qualified immunity
© Greg Nash

Three Senate Democrats will introduce a resolution calling for the elimination of so-called qualified immunity for police officers, Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (D-Mass.) announced Wednesday.

“Law enforcement relies on qualified immunity to shield officers from accountability for instances of police brutality and excessive force,” Markey tweeted Wednesday. “In our culture of systemic racism, it is one of the foremost tools of oppression. Qualified immunity must be immediately eliminated.”

“We must dismantle the oppressive tools of abusers in law enforcement like qualified immunity,” he added. “Police officers are murdering black and brown Americans in our streets without any accountability. We must act NOW.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Markey added that he would introduce the resolution with Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCDFIs have proven they're the right tool to help small business, let's give them what they need to do the job The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Biden cannot allow his domestic fumbles to transfer to the world stage MORE (D-Calif.).

The doctrine of qualified immunity provides legal protection for government officials pertaining to actions taken during official duties.

The doctrine has in recent years been increasingly used in cases involving police use of force, and criminal justice reform advocates have warned that it shields police from accountability when accused of misconduct.

“It’s supposed to be harder to hold someone criminally liable than civilly liable, but is it? If you unknowingly commit a crime and the government wants to put you in prison for it, you can’t use your ignorance of the law as a defense,” Emma Andersson, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Criminal Law Reform Project, wrote in 2018.

“But if an officer makes ‘a mistake of law’ by unreasonably gunning you down in your own backyard, that officer gets to use the defense of qualified immunity to avoid paying damages in a civil case,” Andersson wrote.

Activists have called for increased police accountability in recent days after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes despite Floyd's protests that he was unable to breathe.

The Minneapolis Police Department has been under increased scrutiny after an NBC News analysis found officers have rendered dozens of suspects unconscious with neck restraints in recent years.