Qualified Immunity for Police Officers
What it is, Why it Makes Sense, and Why We Desperately Need to Protect it.
By Laura A. Abrams, Ohio Plan General Counsel
Amid national calls for sweeping police reform, a growing trend is the demand to eliminate the doctrine of “qualified immunity” so police officers can more easily be held personally responsible for their official actions. The United States Congress has introduced two bills, the “End Qualified Immunity Act” which would eliminate qualified immunity for all state and local government officials, and the “Justice in Policing Act” which only removes qualified immunity from law enforcement officers. States are doing the same. On June 19th, Colorado enacted SB20-217 entitled “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act.” The Act creates a new civil cause of action allowing police officers to be sued in Colorado State courts whenever they allegedly violate the Colorado State Bill of Rights or fail to intervene when those rights are violated by other officers. The Act explicitly bars police officers from raising qualified immunity as a defense and even exempts the new cause of action from the State’s general governmental immunity act. More proposed legislation is sure to follow. But is it a good idea?
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