GOP senator to offer measure changing qualified immunity for police

GOP senator to offer measure changing qualified immunity for police
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunIndiana recruiting unvaccinated Chicago officers Indiana's GOP senator: Chicago police who defied vaccine mandate 'deserve respect' Bottom line MORE (R-Ind.) said he will introduce a bill next week that would make changes to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from civil lawsuits.

Braun said his forthcoming bill wouldn't eliminate the protection completely, calling that a "non-starter," but suggested it would bolster legal options for individuals who have had their constitutional rights violated by police.

"It would, in essence, protect anyone whose constitutional rights have been breached, let alone if it ends up something horrific like George Floyd or Rayshard Brooks, to where you'd have some ability to seek, you know, to redress it," Braun told reporters.

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He added that his forthcoming bill would also keep protections from "frivolous lawsuits."

Braun said that he had interest from other members within the GOP conference in his proposal, but stopped short of saying he thought he could get 60 votes.

The measure would probably need 60 votes of support to become law, either on its own or as part of being added to a larger package.

"If you want to do nothing with qualified immunity, to me, we're missing an opportunity because it's based on transparency and accountability, and you've got all of that in most other areas other than government related stuff," Braun said.

Several Senate Republicans, while saying they want to address bad behavior among some law enforcement officers, have warned that making changes to qualified immunity would be something that they could not support.

The Senate GOP proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlack Caucus pushes for priorities in final deal Tim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees MORE (R-S.C.), does not address qualified immunity. The Democratic proposal, by comparison, would allow for individuals to receive damages in civil court “when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement,” according to a Judiciary Committee fact sheet.

The bill would specifically say that a defendant is not immune from lawsuits because they were acting in a way they thought was reasonable or lawful at the time or because they weren’t violating a “clearly established” law.