In yet another misguided decision by the social justice warriors, the City of New York has voted to eliminate qualified immunity for the city's police officers. In a moment when politicians should be making the job of law enforcement easier, society's do-gooders are going out of their way to make it more difficult.
So what is qualified immunity? In a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Pierson v. Ray), qualified immunity established a legal principle whereby as long as a police officer made a good faith effort to do their job, he’d be protected from civil liability. I’m a visual learner, so allow me to illustrate with an example:
A criminal robs a Dunkin' Donuts and runs out the front door just as a cop is walking in for his afternoon joe. Jimmy Dirtbag pushes the cop with the door as the employee is shouting to the cop she was just robbed at gunpoint. Doing his duty, the cop springs into action and takes the criminal to the ground, handcuffs him and takes him into police custody. Sounds good right? Well, during the struggle, Jimmy Dirtbag suffers an injury to his jaw that requires surgery. Cost of doing business for Jimmy Dirtbag? I would say so, however with qualified immunity gone, the civil court may disagree with me. You see, qualified immunity protects that cop as long as he made a good faith effort to subdue a fleeing felon using approved tactics that he was trained to use. He did not violate policy, violate the law or any other regulation to stop the criminal from getting away. Nevertheless, if the criminal FEELS his rights were violated, or suffered injuries that weren't absolutely necessary to stop his escape, he can sue the officer personally. So, that home he worked his entire life for? Gone. His new truck, cabin in the woods? Gone. All awarded to a criminal who never contributed anything to society, committed a violent crime and fought with a cop.
With that being said, if the cop oversteps his bounds, violates his oath or violates someone's civil rights, there’s nothing qualified immunity can do to protect him. These violations include clear disregard for department policy or state/local law. Thus, opening that officer up to civil damage whether or not qualified immunity exists. The only reason I see for passing such an anti-cop, pro-criminal legislation is to discourage cops from taking action when necessary and allowing Jimmy Dirtbag to commit more crimes.
But why stop at cops? Judges, members of congress and other government officials enjoy the protections of Absolute Immunity, which is a level higher than qualified immunity. Absolute immunity means even if they violate the law, violate policy etc. they can’t be sued civilly if they're in the performance of their duties. How many judges have released violent offenders who went and killed their victims? Shouldn't they be held to the same standard as cops? No, we shouldn’t ask those questions.
So who does qualified immunity protect? Qualified immunity protects the good guys; the good cops who do everything they can to protect the public by catching bad guys. Otherwise, why would they do it?
This Blog is written by Suburban's security experts, with contributions from industry experts. Nothing in these posts should be considered binding between the reader and Suburban's security team nor should it be considered legal advice. Just fun tips to help "Protect Your Most Valuable asset".