New York City Council ends qualified immunity for NYPD officers

New York City Council ends qualified immunity for NYPD officers
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New York City on Thursday passed a spate of police reforms including ending qualified immunity for New York Police Department (NYPD) officers. 

Qualified immunity shields state and local police from liability unless they violated a clearly established constitutional right, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The City Council said in a statement that it passed a bill creating a local civil right protecting the city’s residents against unreasonable search and seizures, excessive force, and a ban on the use of qualified immunity as a defense. 

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Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D) hailed the bill’s passage, noting that the city is the first in the country to end qualified immunity.

“The @NYCCouncil just voted to end qualified immunity for police officers, making NYC the first city in the country to do so. Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law,” Johnson tweeted.

“Rooted in our nation's history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades,” Johnson continued. “It should never have been allowed, but I'm proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC.”

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The principle of qualified immunity has come under scrutiny amid a wider conversation of police brutality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans last year. 

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, told CBS earlier in March that the doctrine allows officers to get away with “reprehensible conduct.”

The qualified immunity measure was one of five measures adopted by the New York City Council aimed at police reforms.

The City Council also voted to allow the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate police with a history of bias and racial complaints, issue quarterly reports on traffic stops and to transfer the authority of granting and suspending press passes from the NYPD to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.