The Benefits and Limitations of Qualified Immunity For Law Enforcement Officers

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The Benefits and Limitations of Qualified Immunity For Law Enforcement Officers

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine created—and later reinterpreted—by the Supreme Court, contrary to popular belief. Moreover, qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that protects government officials from being held personally liable for money damages under federal law for constitutional violations, such as the right to be free from the excessive police force, if the officials did not violate “clearly established” law. Read on to learn about the benefits and limitations of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.

Abrogation of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers

A proposed law that would eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement officers has been introduced in Congress. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans support. It is the first such bill supported by three major political parties. If passed, the bill would change the law so that only police officers can be held accountable.

Some advocates argue that qualified immunity should be repealed because it makes state actors accountable for their actions. The abolition of qualified immunity would make Section 1983, which requires state actors to protect innocent citizens from harm, more meaningful. This would make government agents accountable for their actions and foster greater public accountability. It would also ensure that officers understand the limits of their constitutional protections. However, abolishing qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is not a simple task.

Costs

Proponents of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers argue that the cost of litigation deters people from entering the profession and keeps them from leaving. They also say that the threat of litigation does not keep officers’ minds on the job. Officers rarely pay legal fees or damages in civil lawsuits. But what is the cost of qualified immunity to law enforcement? It’s not clear. The benefits of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers far outweigh the costs.

Ultimately, qualified immunity for law enforcement officers would make law enforcement less accountable and limit democratic control. The increased costs of police work would result from their need to purchase private insurance against personal lawsuits. Furthermore, this would put insurance companies in a position to dictate police behavior and curtail their practices. That would be undemocratic, as insurance executives dictate public safety and policy. But if these costs are too high, why would we want qualified immunity?

Benefits

One of the many benefits of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is protecting officers from frivolous lawsuits. Qualified immunity also helps protect the public from lawsuits, harming police officers’ ability to serve their communities. It also protects them from the personal and professional strife caused by frivolous lawsuits. However, qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is sometimes lumped in with other policy reforms. If qualified immunity were repealed, it would hurt the public’s trust in law enforcement.

The benefit of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is that the courts have a history of protecting public officials from lawsuits. In addition, because police officers are not judges or lawyers, their assets are not exposed to cases for constitutional errors. This protection also applies to police officers’ use of pepper spray, tasers, and strikes. These legal precedents have weighed the need for public safety against the harm caused by police officers.

Limitations

In a police shooting case, defendants can benefit from a limited form of qualified immunity. This immunity applied when the police acted “objectively unreasonable in the circumstances.” Otherwise, it amounts to an unnecessary double-counting of deference. The following are some circumstances in which qualified immunity may be an appropriate defense. However, many police officers fail to comply with this requirement. Therefore, it may be good to consult an attorney before using qualified immunity.

The limits of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers apply to police, firefighters, and EPA officials. The doctrine isn’t based on the Constitution, so Congress has the power to amend it. In addition to police, other government officials who use deadly weapons, such as teachers, firefighters, and EPA officials, may also benefit from qualified immunity. But the question is, should law enforcement officers be immune from suit?

Anita Begay

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