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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 MarkeyLawmakers commemorate one-year anniversary of Arbery's killing Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses LIVE COVERAGE: Senate trial moves to closing arguments 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.”

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Markey added that he would introduce the resolution with Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerObama says reparations 'justified' Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren MORE (D-Calif.).

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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.