Bass: Qualified immunity must stop shielding bad cops
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said Sunday that she disagreed with a call from Republicans to preserve qualified immunity for individual police officers, which she said was shielding bad actors like Derek Chauvin from legal action.
Bass, the lead sponsor of the House Democrats’ police reform bill, said during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that she would compromise on the issue if Republicans “can show us another way” to hold individual officers accountable for their actions, while pointing to Chauvin’s own past history of misconduct complaints.
The California Democrat also responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who minutes earlier on the show had declared that the U.S. is not a “racist country.”
Bass pointed to laws that were put on the books federally and in some states around the time of the nation’s founding that she argued were explicitly racist, telling host Chris Wallace: “You can look back at our history’s laws and over time there were many laws that were put in place that were absolutely racist and over time those laws might have changed, but the conditions haven’t changed.”
“You can look at each of our institutions,” the congresswoman continued. “Why is there such massive inequality when it comes to education, when it comes to health care? Why does that exist? And so we have to figure out a way to talk about it. Right now to say it doesn’t exist does not help anyone.”
Her comments followed the conviction of Chauvin last week in the murder trial of George Floyd, a Black man who died when the former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest that was seen in widely-shared bodycam footage that sparked nationwide protests last year.
Chauvin was convicted last week by a jury on three counts related to Floyd’s death, including second-degree murder. He now awaits sentencing.
Bass is currently championing a police reform bill in Floyd’s honor, titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that would limit qualified immunity for police officers and departments as well as authorize the Justice Department to issue subpoenas while investigating police departments for systemic discrimination.
Updated at 1:20 p.m. to include more of Rep. Bass’s comments.