Eliminating Law Enforcement Qualified Immunity

Recently I committed the horrible transgression of hitting “Haha” on a Facebook post relating to why law enforcement officers should not be opposed to a new law that would strip them of their qualified immunity. Personally, I thought it was amusing that the article, written by someone with a grand total of three years of reserve officer experience 20 years ago in a small municipality in Washington, was writing an article supporting this new law in my state. The credibility of the phrase “… as a former cop, take it from me… “ rang pretty hollow, but is exactly what you’d expect from a paid political activist. 

Is eliminating police qualified immunity about accountability, integrity, professionalism or trust? No, it’s about finding a way to further restrict law enforcement activities to the point where no officer dares to confront any criminal. But it actually goes deeper than that. It is about eliminating local law enforcement as we know it. 

Along with defunding police departments, eliminating law enforcement qualified immunity is a vogue “do something” act for progressive politicians. It shows they have bought into narrative the entire law enforcement system is broken and has always been broken – even though they actively supported and approved of it until the woke mob showed up at their door. 

Quite simply, the qualified immunity doctrine protects law enforcement officials from frivolous lawsuits and financial liability in cases where they acted in good faith in unclear legal situations. It is important to recognize qualified immunity applies only in civil litigation and does not protect the government itself from suits arising from officials’ actions nor does it apply to criminal actions. 

Still, this doctrine is now being blamed as the major hinderance to police accountability. Certain researchers falsely allege “qualified immunity permits law enforcement and other government officials to violate people’s constitutional rights with virtual impunity”. 

Note that the very same government officials who are working to strip qualified immunity away from law enforcement officers enjoy qualified immunity themselves. None of them are working to eliminate their own qualified immunity. 

For the application of the doctrine, let’s compare it to a “Stand Your Ground” law. Gun control zealots claim this is an automatic “shoot first, ask questions later” law. In reality, just because someone claims they acted under “Stand Your Ground” doesn’t mean it applies in their situation, it must be adjudicated as such. If it is not, then that particular defense does not apply. The very same concept applies with qualified immunity. If it is not adjudicated as valid, it does not apply. It is up to the courts to decide this. It is not something that simply gets claimed in every case and that’s the end of it. 

Knowing this, if civil cases against individual officers are being dismissed because of qualified immunity, it’s because the courts say this is the correct action under these unique circumstances. Simply feeling wronged by an enforcement action and finding a lawyer, activist or “news” channel to take your side, doesn’t mean your case is valid. 

So, what is behind the push to eliminate law enforcement qualified immunity? It’s the same logic as the defund the police. Take the illegal acts committed by a handful of officers, highly publicized by a certain segment of the news media, and project that as the standard practices of every officer in the nation. 

If you’re wondering where this is all headed, it’s the elimination of the locally controlled and administered law enforcement agency. By slashing agency budgets, they are reducing the number of officers and restricting the tools and techniques available to the remaining officers. Eliminating specialized units such as proactive anti-crime patrols, domestic violence and sexual assault units, community policing and training all serve to make the agency less effective at their primary function of crime prevention and law enforcement.

The answer to the pleas from citizens victimized by thugs glorified as heroes in the woke communities will come from the state or federal level law enforcement agencies. These agencies, who have been spared the media condemnation of their municipal counterparts, will be called in to take over law enforcement in the defunded police communities. And this is a very bad thing. 

Law enforcement is and always has been best served by local officers who are locally funded, directed and held accountable by their communities. Local communities can set their own priorities and be responsive to the needs of their residents.

Eliminating law enforcement qualified immunity will only serve to make police services less effective in their communities. It has absolutely nothing to do with police professionalism, accountability, trust or the effectiveness of police within the community. It is only about intimidating officers to the point where they will not act and to punish those who do by having to defend against frivolous lawsuits. Even when these lawsuits are ruled completely baseless, they will be used to attack their professional credibility.

For the author of this propaganda piece (the link to the full article is below so you can read it for yourself), I give him the same level of credibility as the former Army Lt. General who called an AR-15 a “weapon of war” and coined the ludicrous phrase, “full semi-automatic”. Someone with minimal, part-time law enforcement experience, who enjoyed the protection of qualified immunity throughout the rest of his career, is now saying “trust me” as a paid political activist. 

There is no great secret for law enforcement gaining the trust of the community and being effective. It comes from honesty, communication and involvement.  Call it whatever the current fashionable administrative term you want, but it’s always been good old fashioned one-on-one police work. 

Law enforcement is at best a difficult career. We demand they make instantaneous life altering decisions under extraordinary circumstances most people could never imagine. And while the anti-police activists consistently minimize the dangers and wildly exaggerate the abuses, the truth of the matter is the vast, Vast, VAST majority of law enforcement officers do their jobs every day with honor and distinction, to the tune of millions and millions of public interactions per year. 

I stand unapologetically behind our nation’s law enforcement officers and will continue to call out and oppose the attacks on their ability to do their jobs safely and effectively. 

Bob

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https://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/police-shouldnt-fear-new-civil-rights-bill/article_6058619c-70af-11eb-a5b8-5fdc49de19be.html