Police Abuse

Police Reform Without Qualified Immunity Reform Is Worthless

Lawmakers have reportedly taken any changes to qualified immunity off the table.

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The bulk of the American public supports qualified immunity reform. It's not hard to see why: The legal doctrine allows state officials to violate your constitutional rights without fear of being sued. It has emboldened cops to commit some shocking misdeeds: killing innocent people, shooting children, beating people needlessly, and outright stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is at the very foundation of our culture of police un-accountability, which destroys trust and makes it more difficult for good officers to do their jobs.

So, naturally, the Senate has reportedly taken reform off the table, according to three people familiar with the discussions. 

The proposal was part of the Justice in Policing Act, the legislation in the works since the death of George Floyd. Outright abolishing the doctrine was always a tough sell among Republicans. But Sen Tim Scott (R–S.C.), who is leading GOP negotiations, floated a compromise that would make law enforcement departments, not individual officers, liable for misconduct claims.

Though his proposal frustrated advocates who want to see more individual accountability, others thought it might be a decent middle ground, as many cities already indemnify officers against having to pay damages: out of $730 million in judgments awarded to police conduct plaintiffs between 2006 to 2011, individual officers paid a grand total of 0.02 percent, according to Joanna Schwartz, a law professor at UCLA, who surveyed 44 of the largest police agencies across the U.S.

But last month, we learned the National Sheriffs' Association met with Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.); they objected to the idea that their departments would have to take the heat for the actions of supposed rogue officers. Shortly thereafter, the National Association of Police Organizations sent its members a message headlined "Urgent, Action Needed! Senator Booker Proposes Horrible Police Reform Bill."

Law enforcement groups claim that abolishing or even limiting qualified immunity in any meaningful way would spur an avalanche of frivolous misconduct lawsuits. But without qualified immunity, plaintiffs would still need to prove before a judge that their constitutional rights were violated by a police officer or other government official. Qualified immunity doesn't determine the outcome of a civil suit, it simply allows government officials to avoid being sued altogether. Abolishing it won't make government officials liable if plaintiffs fail to prove that their rights were violated. 

The legal principle of qualified immunity says that, in order to sue most state actors in civil court, the alleged misbehavior and the circumstances surrounding it must have previously been ruled unconstitutional in a prior court precedent. That means that cops can, for example, throw explosives into an innocent person's home and not have to pay for the damages if there is no prior ruling discussing such behavior. (That actually happened.) It also means that had the city of Minneapolis chosen to not settle with George Floyd's family, Derek Chauvin—the former Minneapolis Police Department officer convicted of murdering him—could have skirted the impending lawsuits if the Floyd family failed to present a perfectly identical precedent.

The latter speaks to the heart of why so many argue qualified immunity reform is an imperative: Chauvin is the exception, not the rule. As I wrote after his conviction, misbehaving police officers are almost never prosecuted; when they are, a conviction is even rarer. That leaves victims with one final road to justice—civil court—which they often find blocked off before they can state their case to a jury. 

"Ending qualified immunity would simply allow more victims or their families to receive restitution," writes Evan Johnson, a former Washington, D.C., police officer, in The Hill, "and give agencies more financial incentive to ensure the officers they put on the street respect the rights of those they serve." On the latter point, perhaps an insurance market would make sense, where departments assess the risk of repeat offenders—like, for instance, Derek Chauvin.

"The bottom line is that policing reform without qualified immunity reform is going to be mostly hollow and ineffective," says Jay Schweikert, a research fellow with the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice. "If you don't have accountability in place, then in some sense it doesn't matter what other rules Congress implements." In the context of the Justice in Policing Act, legislators also hope to address things like no-knock warrants and racial profiling. "If those rules can be violated with impunity," adds Schweikert, "then they're not actually protecting anyone."

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  2. Erode qi for all Gov workers. I can’t wait till procecuters and CPS agents are personally sued out of all of their money in civil courts.

    1. Yeah fuck those procecuters. They can go fusk themselves!

  3. ” … It has emboldened cops to commit some shocking misdeeds: killing innocent people, shooting children, beating people needlessly, and outright stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is at the very foundation of our culture of police un-accountability, which destroys trust and makes it more difficult for good officers to do their jobs.”
    ___________

    Sometimes law enforcers must be permitted to relax their nerves on a particularly stressful day by way of (though officially unsanctioned) playing football-tackle and rough-’em-up cop; in itself, that may act something like icing on the cake of the primary-pay-and-perks authority-figure job role. Though that may sound cynical on the surface, I believe there is some truth to it: Almost all of us guys, as some gals, have as children fantasized about, and even planned for, a future as law enforcers in some form or another; however, almost all of that category, probably sooner than later, also grew out of that dream, as it wasn’t reflective of our nature.

    Although society (including me) needs law-enforcers to protect the law-abiding and vulnerable people, I believe that to have a reasonable idea of how law-enforcers will perform their job, one must understand what underlying nature/desire motivated them to their profession to start with. Maybe many, if not most, law enforcers — be they private-property security, community police, prison guards or heavily-armed rapid-response police units — target/acquire such authoritative fields of employment mainly for ‘power’ reasons, though perhaps subconsciously.

  4. “The legal principle of qualified immunity says that, in order to sue most state actors in civil court, the alleged misbehavior and the circumstances surrounding it must have previously been ruled unconstitutional in a prior court precedent.”

    It’s chickenshit. It’s just terrible people protecting other pieces of shit.

  5. I’ll admit that I did not read the article, but the headline strikes me as completely backwards. Eliminating Qualified Immunity is a Nice To Have, but it is not in any way a deal killer to police reform.

    Today, Qualified Immunity does not protect police departments from lawsuits. In fact, many police departments spend millions upon millions of dollars each year to settle these lawsuits. And yet police continue to violate peoples’ rights. Today, those police who violate peoples’ rights can still be sent to jail for those crimes.

    What will eliminating QI actually do, in absence of other significant reforms? Very little. Police will need to get some sort of QI Insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits- frivolous or actual. That insurance *will* be passed onto the police departments as a benefit.

    Now people say that police departments will have an incentive to remove police that are more expensive to insure. But we know for a fact that this is NOT true. When police departments *today* pay huge settlement costs- even for repeat offender police- and keep those cops on the payrolls, we have actual observable behavior that says the police departments will not be influenced with cost avoidance.

    The reason Police Departments do not react to these costs today is the same reason they will not react to these costs tomorrow: Cost of their officers plays a smaller part on their management decisions than other factors, like Union lobbying, political granstanding, and other activism.

    IMHO, police reform will be useless if we do not bust the unions. Until you do that, any cost you try to foist on an officer will find itself onto the Police Department balance sheets.

    1. Your premise is incorrect. Police departments don’t pay judgements. Insurance policies and city and county budgets pay for judgments and claims. Jurisdictions hurting for cash may borrow money and issue bonds to spread out payments.

      1. It is fundamentally no different. When I say “the police department” I mean the “City” or whoever is funding the police department, and yes this ultimately means the tax payers.

        And this is exactly the problem. The costs of being a shitty police officer are always passed, through multiple layers to us, the tax payers. The people making those decisions bear none of that burden. They in fact are incentivized by the police unions to do this.

        For some reason, Binion thinks that eliminating QI will suddenly change this. It won’t. The Police Unions will ensure that the costs of officers’ lawsuits get passed on as a benefit. The police departments already pay these costs because they get sued instead of the officers.

        Again, not saying that QI reform is bad. It is good. But it is not the panacea that Binion thinks it is.

      2. Yeah you can split hairs on exactly which entity cuts the check but the taxpayer guarantees that the check won’t bounce.

    2. ok ok. There’s TWO deal killers to police reform. Qualified Immunity, Unions, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope.

  6. And none of it is worth a damn until we have public sector union reform. Who wants to go first?

    1. Public sector unions would not and cannot protect individual cops from legal judgements if QI was removed. I get that you’re a rabid union hater, but that’s a different subject not related to this one.

      1. Public sector unions would not and cannot protect individual cops from legal judgements if QI was removed. I get that you’re a rabid union hater, but that’s a different subject not related to this one.

        That’s very true.

        On the other hand, union reform would allow departments to at least fire bad actors which many departments can’t do or wind up being forced to re-hire a fired officer because of the union contract arbitration and hiring/firing rules.

        1. That’s true. Police unions frequently protect bad cops when they shouldn’t.

      2. Unions absolutely would protect police by getting Lawsuit Insurance costs passed on as a departmental benefit. And you can guarantee that it will be some sort of “Self Funded” style of insurance- much like health insurance- where the cost is the same to all police officers regardless of their “preexisting conditions”. Because that is what the Unions do.

        1. Unions absolutely would protect police by getting Lawsuit Insurance costs passed on as a departmental benefit. And you can guarantee that it will be some sort of “Self Funded” style of insurance- much like health insurance- where the cost is the same to all police officers regardless of their “preexisting conditions”. Because that is what the Unions do.

          Why is that a bad thing? If that insurance is part of the benefits package (like health insurance) — isn’t that a good thing?
          The premiums will be paid out of the departments budget (like health insurance) — and then the muni will have no other costs to bear.

          The insurance company will be paying the bulk of the damages, not the taxpayers.

          Similar to health insurance — When someone insured gets cancer an spends millions on cancer treatments — the insurance company pays, not the employer.

          1. It only works if the insurance company is taking in more in premiums than paying out in damages. It just frontloads the cost of bad actors and spreads it around to every municipality insured by a particular company. Ultimately the costs are all born by the same group: Taxpayers

          2. “The premiums will be paid out of the departments budget (like health insurance) — and then the muni will have no other costs to bear.

            The insurance company will be paying the bulk of the damages, not the taxpayers.”

            Huh. I think you really have a good understanding of the law, so I want to give credit where credit is due.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think you are as strong in the business/economics area. In fact the tax payers *will* be paying the bulk of damages. The insurance company doesn’t sit on a magical nest egg of cash. They collect dues from all their clients to create a fund relatively equal to their expected payout of lawsuits. Their profit comes from investing those funds and collecting money off those investments.

            So you see, the insurance isn’t paying the cost of these lawsuits, the police officers are. Which is to say that the Police Department is paying. Which is to say the municipality is paying. Which is to say the tax payers are paying.

            Again, Police Unions *will* ensure that the cost of QI insurance is covered by the Taxpayer. We know this because the taxpayer already pays tons of lawsuit costs today, because people sue the police department instead of the officer. It is a revealed preference, no need to speculate.

            1. “We know this because the taxpayer already pays tons of lawsuit costs today, because people sue the police department instead of the officer. It is a revealed preference, no need to speculate.”

              I realized that maybe I skipped over this part without explaining it, so maybe I can be more clear.

              Today economists often say that an employee bears the full cost of the FICA taxes, even though the law says that the employer pays 7.5% and the employee pays 7.5%. But in fact, economically, the cost is no different to the employer. The employer has revealed that they are willing to pay Your Salary + 7.5% in order to have you work for them. The fact that they deposit half that cost in your bank, and deposit the 7.5% to the Social Security Administration is nothing to them. And so, if tomorrow the law was changed to say that the individual has to pay that full 15%, it’s just as easy to give you the 7.5% extra.

              The revealed preference of the employer is to pay your salary + 7.5%, so all other things being equal, you can say that is their bid price for your labor.

              The same is true with police departments. These police departments get sued for failing to provide proper training when police officers skate on QI because they weren’t trained. They have revealed that these are costs they are willing to pay (and that is largely because they pass those costs onto the tax payer). So change the law, and those costs get paid to an insurance company instead of a law firm- it doesn’t matter to them- we know that they are ok paying it.

              Now I am simplifying the analysis here, because any change in the law may change some of the basic conditions I admit.

              For example, it is possible that new legislation does result in bad actors being more expensive than today. I argue that this isn’t a game changer, so much as a marginal improvement (which is why I still support the measures). We aren’t suddenly, for the first time, making police departments accountable for Bad Actors. We know for a fact that these departments pay for bad actors all the time, and we know for a fact that this is not enough to stop them from keeping these bad actors employed.

              So making those bad actors a bit more expensive may reduce the number of bad actors, but it isn’t going to solve the problem. Simply put, until we have a way to drastically move that curve, we are just making marginal improvements- which is why I disagreed with Binion.

              1. Well said.

      3. You’re wrong. The Union indemnifies the officer from lawsuit.

        1. The city typically indemnifies the officers as part of the union agreement. The end result is the same, but the union doesn’t put its own neck on the line — just taxpayers.

          1. So you’re arguing a distinction without a difference, brilliant. That will change things. Without union reform to remove their ability to add indemnification as part of the benefits package all you’d be doing is adding another level between actor and accountability when that link is already tenuous.

      4. Even Democrats are beginning to realize that you can’t do reform without addressing the union.

        From Politico, for chrissakes:

        Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), co-author of the measure, said in a statement that he asked House leadership to not move the bill unless the right for police to negotiate on accountability standards is addressed. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who also signed on to the bill, is “withdrawing her support” from it “as long as it remains in its current form,” said Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for the New York Democrat. Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, author of a separate broader bill to expand collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers, is also deciding “whether any changes need to be made to [his] bill to hold officers with problematic records accountable” and will consider changes Kildee makes to his legislation, said Cartwright spokesman Matt Slavoski.

        All Democrats POLITICO spoke to said they support police’s right to unionize and bargain over wages and working conditions; it’s police’s ability to negotiate misconduct standards through union contracts that some are now questioning or flat out opposing.

        I have said from the beginning, and I stand firmly by what I said… when criminal behavior is morphed into an employee/employer dispute, you have a problem. You can pretend that this accountability problem lays solely at the feet of Qualified Immunity, it does not.

        And don’t get me wrong, I believe qualified immunity needs to be addressed FOR ALL PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES (because it ain’t just cops who enjoy its protections). Good luck convincing a Democratic lawmaker to fuck his union constituency in the ass. Good luck with that. I’ll not wait by my phone on this one.

        1. None of this really matters if the leftist/establishment threat isn’t physically dealt with anyway

    2. I’ll just 2nd the motion and move to end debate. All in favor?

  7. As I understand Senator Scott’s approach, he wants to start a system of documenting and reporting police incidents. It is a good start. Before we go eliminating QI (it is being abused today), we should see what the data actually are.

    I don’t think you can completely eliminate QI, but you sure can narrow the scope of what QI covers.

    1. I don’t think you can completely eliminate QI, but you sure can narrow the scope of what QI covers.

      I think this is exactly right.

      I don’t think QI needs to be gone completely. but it has to be limited. Honest mistakes should provide immunity, but things like violating policy or going against training, being ignorant of the law (like enforcing laws that don’t exist or have been overturned) should all be fair game.

      QI should only apply for mundane situations not where government agents act maliciously or negligently or recklessly

      1. And there is the rub. You give a judge an out to apply QI at his discretion, and there will be judges who over apply it. I do believe this is the actual problem that has developed. Theoretically, it is not supposed to be for all cases, it is that very few judges not apply it in all cases because they do not want to get on the bad side of the police.

        On the other hand, it is easy to see how not having QI will lead to frivolous lawsuits against good officers, just to gum up the system. And if you are personally on the hook for defending your actions against people of dubious ethics all the time, then that would discourage anyone from being police.

        1. They don’t want to get on the wrong side of the police, but also they don’t want to do the work of drawing fine distinctions and taking the heat for possibly getting a few wrong.

      2. Why should they get immunity for “honest” mistakes of those mistakes deprive someone of their rights? The easy of is don’t get that in our professional capacities for damages far less egregious than depriving someone of their rights. That fact incentivizes caution. What makes it reasonable to hold police to a lower standard? Government officials have enough advantages in government dealings without granting them non-statuory magic immunities based on nothing more than they want them.

    2. Maybe we should have seen what the data was before letting courts make up an illegal exemption to statutory law, rather than suddenly being cautious when it comes to actually following the law. Follow the law, then determine if the law needs to be changed. QI is not law. Liability for depriving rights is law. QI should be immediately eliminated and if congress wants to reinstate with actual legislation it they can do so.

  8. I’ll admit that I did not read the article, but the headline strikes me as completely backwards. Eliminating Qualified Immunity is a Nice To Have, but it is not in any way a deal killer to police reform.

    Not only didnt you read the article, you don’t even understand the problem that eliminating QI is trying to resolve.

    Today, Qualified Immunity does not protect police departments from lawsuits. In fact, many police departments spend millions upon millions of dollars each year to settle these lawsuits. And yet police continue to violate peoples’ rights. Today, those police who violate peoples’ rights can still be sent to jail for those crimes.

    It isn’t about protecting police departments. It’s the police OFFICERS that QI is protecting. QI protects the bad actors. That’s the problem.

    If a cop ignores training or policy why should the department be sued? (and in fact the when the Police Department is sued, it’s the innocent taxpayers who are getting fleeced for the bad actions of the civil servants.

    The individual officer should be sued. That’s who QI protects.

    If they are going to Leave QI in place, then any settlements get paid our directly from the pension fund, and past a certain threshold of payouts every officer gets a pay-cut.

    1. Not only didnt you read the article, you don’t even understand the problem that eliminating QI is trying to resolve.

      Funny, since the article itself acknowledges that police departments largely indemnify individual officers.

      1. Funny, since the article itself acknowledges that police departments largely indemnify individual officers.

        That may be the case, but the QI doctrine and case law assumes officers will pay their own damages. If we just assume that all officers are indemnified, then why do the officers need QI at all?

        QI also precludes punitive damages, because when you sue the municipality punitive damages aren’t allowed. Punitive damages against municipalities are prohibited in part because, the Court has reasoned, “[n]either reason nor justice suggests that such retribution should be visited upon the shoulders of blameless or unknowing taxpayers.”

        So indemnification is in fact an argument against QI. Since most are indemified, they have nothing to fear from the lawsuits — they wont pay anyway.

        Further, if you can’t sue the bad actor, but only the department, then to recover against a city, plaintiffs must show their rights were violated as the result of the city’s unconstitutional policy, practice, or custom were at fault.

        So yet again QI makes it harder to get any justice when a rogue officers goes against policy or practice.

      2. Not police departments. The article itself says “many cities already indemnify officers against having to pay damages”. Cities. Not departments. In other words, taxpayers.

    2. “It isn’t about protecting police departments. It’s the police OFFICERS that QI is protecting. QI protects the bad actors. That’s the problem.”

      Please read my post again. In a world with police unions, these costs will be born by the Police Department. Lawsuit Insurance will be created to cover this, and the Police Departments will pay it as a benefit. We know that they have already demonstrated their willingness to pay this (in economics, we call this a revealed preference) because they pay these settlements under the current legal regime.

      In fact, consider that Police Malpractice Insurance is much like health insurance. It continues to insulate the police officer from the costs of their decisions. One thing that we have seen is that when consumers don’t have to bear the cost of their insurance, they have a tendency to CONSUME that good more. So we see people consume more, pricier health care, because they are insulated from those costs by insurance covered by their work. It is highly possible that insuring a person from malpractice could lead to worse performance (as previously, QI only protected them from SOME lawsuits, while we would expect insurance to protect them from all lawsuits).

      “If a cop ignores training or policy why should the department be sued? ”

      Why indeed? And yet it happens all the time today. The flip side of the QI Coin says that if the officer can’t be sued for violating rights in a situation he wasn’t trained for, then the police department can be sued for failing to train him! Police departments pay millions, and sometimes for the SAME cops over and again. Why, do you think the police departments continue to bear these costs for bad cops?

      “(and in fact the when the Police Department is sued, it’s the innocent taxpayers who are getting fleeced for the bad actions of the civil servants.”

      DING DING DING! Welcome to the world of Police Unions. They can push these costs on the police department, because the Politician agreeing to the cost doesn’t bare those costs. The tax payers do. But the politician gets juicy endorsements and let out of speeding tickets from time to time, so that is nice.

      1. And mind you, again: I think eliminating QI is a good thing. I just completely disagree with Binion’s obsession with it. It is not a panacea.

        Chi’s focus on Bad Actors is important. Qualified Immunity allows some Bad Actors to be punished but not all of them. Far more Bad Actors skate through the system protected by Unions and a non-adversarial DA department. Ending QI will do nothing to stop those bad actors. Nothing. So acting like QI is this singular cause is in incredible blind spot on Binion’s part, and is leading him to crusade against a very important bill because it doesn’t contain his hobby horse.

      2. Please read my post again. In a world with police unions, these costs will be born by the Police Department. Lawsuit Insurance will be created to cover this, and the Police Departments will pay it as a benefit. We know that they have already demonstrated their willingness to pay this (in economics, we call this a revealed preference) because they pay these settlements under the current legal regime.

        If PDs want to pay for the insurance premium as a benefit in the same way my employer pays for my health insurance that’s fine. So long as when the judgements come in, the insurance company pays not the tax-payers. And if you can sue the individual officers, then the insurance company will stop covering that person if they are deemed a liability.

        Furthermore, even these insurance policies have caps. So if the payout cap per incident is 2 million, and a 3 million dollar judgement comes in, the actor, not the taxpayers should be on the hook.

        Why indeed? And yet it happens all the time today. The flip side of the QI Coin says that if the officer can’t be sued for violating rights in a situation he wasn’t trained for, then the police department can be sued for failing to train him! Police departments pay millions, and sometimes for the SAME cops over and again. Why, do you think the police departments continue to bear these costs for bad cops?

        Because of QI. Most of these lawsuits wind up dropping the individual officers from the suit and only the department is a defendant — because of QI given to the officers. If I am not allowed to sue the actor, of course only the taxpayers are going to wind up paying.

        And union contracts wouldn’t protect an individual officer against a judgement when they are the defendant. (The municipality may choose to indemnify their officers — but that’s a different issue — and in fact such indemnification actually shows that QI isn’t even necessary)

        1. So long as when the judgements come in, the insurance company pays not the tax-payers.

          Why shouldn’t the taxpayers be at risk? They should be electing representatives who are willing to control the government’s agents.

          Sure, it’s nice if the taxpayers don’t have to pay, but I don’t see that as a primary concern.

        2. “So long as when the judgements come in, the insurance company pays not the tax-payers”

          As I noted before, you are not understanding how insurance works. The insurance company is funded by the dues of its officers. And if the police department pays those dues, then in fact the tax payers *are* paying for the settlements.

          “Furthermore, even these insurance policies have caps. So if the payout cap per incident is 2 million, and a 3 million dollar judgement comes in, the actor, not the taxpayers should be on the hook.”

          Of course, this will be unacceptable to the police officers, and therefor the union so they will insist that the cap gets raised as high as necessary to protect their officers from financial impact.

          ” Why, do you think the police departments continue to bear these costs for bad cops?

          Because of QI.”

          Partially correct- you missed the next part where I used your own words to answer my rhetorical question. 😉

          Yes, people sue the department because they cannot sue the officer. And as I noted, eliminating QI just means they sue the officer’s insurance whose dues are paid by the police department. But if the police departments have been paying these costs already, why are they not getting rid of bad actors? They often pay these costs for the same officers over and over. Why?

          The police departments pay these costs because the people agreeing to pay these costs don’t bear the consequences. The politician who passes these costs onto the tax payer is given donations and endorsements from the Unions and continues to get elected.

          This system of perverse incentives is why eliminating QI, while a good thing, is not a panacea. The costs of sued officers will still be born by the tax-payer because those cost-shifting decisions are made by politicians who have no reason to cross the unions. Until we change that incentive structure, the QI will not fix things. In fact, it will likely end up costing tax payers substantially more for bad actors.

    3. It isn’t about protecting police departments. It’s the police OFFICERS that QI is protecting. QI protects the bad actors. That’s the problem.

      That’s explaining the problem by only going halfway. As we’ve seen with so-called QI reform in states that Reason has erroneously claimed have “revoked it”, the state actors are either fully indemnified against lawsuit, or their damages are strictly limited.

      The idea that any officer will ever see the inside of a courtroom if you magically eliminated QI is a pipe dream.

      If officers were easier to get rid of when they were bad actors, then QI would probably never be much of an issue. But because they’re nigh impossible to get rid of, let alone even discipline, we focus on a way-down-the-road/way-up-the-food-chain issue and treat it as a utopian solution.

    4. If a cop ignores training or policy why should the department be sued?

      Because the cop was working on the department’s behalf. Because the department selected and hired the cop.

  9. Defund the capital police.

    1. Funny how even after sport shooting protesters that never gained traction.

  10. Qualified immunity reform would be nice, but it’s not necessary to make meaningful improvements. Simply holding the relevant government liable for the acts of its employees would be a bigger improvement than any qualified immunity proposal I’ve seen. The sting of personal liability that reformed qualified immunity could threaten might be useful, but it the primary goal should be ensuring that those harmed by the government have redress. Personal liability for the government’s agents is a secondary or tertiary concern.

  11. Are you kidding with that headline? There’s so much meaningful reform that could be made to policing in so many jurisdictions in this country, you’re mocking it to hang it all on qualified immunity. Yes, QI is a big deal, it creates some egregious injustices, but it doesn’t come up all that often given how much else goes wrong. Are you setting up police reform for failure?

    1. This.

  12. Huh. I went straight to the comments, still haven’t read the article, but it looks like we’re all in agreement here. Amazing that even when you factor out the TDS and Reason’s triangulation, they still generate articles that arouse us all in opposition.

  13. Goddamn, Tim Scott has been a huge disappointment as Senator.

    I mean if you want to step and fetch for the GOP they already had a Spermin’ Herman Cain.

    1. This post is what is popularly called “concern trolling”.
      Buttplug will always be disappointed with Tim Scott regardless of circumstance, until the moment he gets a (D) after his name, and not a second before.

  14. Police Reform Without Qualified Immunity Reform Is Worthless

    No it isn’t. QI reform is a must, but take whatever you can get at the moment, and press for more later.

    Better to get it incrementally, than not at all.

  15. OMG, I ‘m watching this lunatic named Mark ‘High Pitch Spermy Voice’ Levin on Fox News losing his mind.

    It’s like a car crash. You can’t turn away!

    1. Spermy Voice

      What the fuck is a spermy voice?

      1. It’s what Buttplug gets after Tony “finishes.”

  16. I also did not get past the headline and found numerous commenters making the points I would have but probably better. Yes it is way past time to end qualified immunity at least in it’s current form. No ending QI will not change much and will not create any real accountability on the part of bad actors. Yes police reform can be accomplished whatever happens with QI.
    Many of the examples of police abuse cited by Reason in their crusade against QI involve acts of outright criminality at worst or criminal negligence at best. What always seems to be missing from the story is the penalties these officers suffered. In the vast majority of cases there are none. While unions are absolutely complicit, the totally corrupt criminal justice system is the core issue. Prosecutors, judges, local politicians and otherwise decent cops protecting their criminal brethren are the reason victims of police abuse will never find justice. Civil penalties are just a cost of doing business with or without QI. Ending QI is not police reform.

    1. And local political party chapters, both of the party that’s in and the parties that are out, are extremely solicitous of police unions and associations. They buy a big share of the tickets to the fundraisers, at which many of the police receive plaques of recognition, not for especially meritorious service (regardless of what the engraving says) and acts of heroism, but simply for rising to a high position and keeping it a long time.

  17. “The legal doctrine allows state officials to violate your constitutional rights without fear of being sued.”

    Legislators are state officials. It is not hard to see why they do not want to do away with Qualified Immunity.

  18. Everyone should be subject to the EXACT SAME laws. No exceptions for public officials, judges, police and the list goes on. We should all be treated equally under the law, not giving special protections or exempting people. Any law passed by congress should apply equally to everyone and not exclude congress. Unfortunately congress exempts themselves on a regular basis. Protecting government officials and employees from prosecution for their crimes and any accountability.

    The pandemic is a nuisance, but this is a crisis.

  19. I don’t see any meaningful reform coming sadly. How hard is it to think police should have to abide by the same rules as anyone else?

    If I can’t get QI then why should they? How is absolving them of responsibility for their actions making policing any better?

    1. You’re not making split second life or death decisions. Or are you?

  20. I finally glanced at the article itself. What the headline is doing is summing up what someone from CATO wrote, and its meaning is that picking from among reforms CONGRESS is CURRENTLY contemplating, those that don’t reform QI are worthless. And that might actually be right. Whoopee.

    The real action is not in Congress. The real problem is far more diffuse, and could only be addressed by a widespread public ethos that says Big Police must be deprived of its broad platform of support in all the states. And it’s not hopeless, considering Cal Coolidge.

  21. ‘…plaintiffs would still need to prove before a judge that ..’ No silly. Remove it and every shyster would churn out and file and throw thousands of $200.00 ‘ (filing fee) ‘lawsuits’ against the wall to see what ‘sticks’. That’s what qualified immunity is supposed to protect against. Go back to the drawing board.

  22. When all participants of a “system” are feeding from the same nose-bag, free from competition — and are allowed (by your neighbors and friends — hopefully not you) to
    • Make the laws,
    • Enforce the laws,
    • Prosecute the laws,
    • Hire the prosecutors,
    • License the “defense” attorneys,
    • Pay the “judges”,
    • Build the jails,
    • Contract jails out to private entities,
    • Employ and pay the wardens,
    • Employ and pay the guards,
    • Employ and pay the parole officers,
    One can’t honestly call it a “justice” system. It’s a system of abject tyranny.

  23. When I was a kid, police always put their houses in their wives’ name. Why?
    This was before qualified immunity, and they feared that a sympathetic jury could give their only significant asset to a plaintiff.
    So, is this what the author wants? Innocent wives and children to become homeless?

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