Qualified immunity: Should a police officer be held to a different standard in court?
Shannon Longworth: Should a police officer be held to a different standard in a court of law?
We’re talking qualified immunity.
A JURY CONVCTED FORMER POLICE OFFICER Derek Chauvin on three CRIMINAL counts FOR THE MURDER OF George Floyd. AND WHILE CHAUVIN MAY HAVE BEEN FOUND GUILTY IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL, HE STILL HAS A CHANCE TO SHOW HE WAS JUSTIFIED IN A CIVIL TRIAL. BECAUSE THE FLOYD FAMILY IS TAKING CHAUVIN BACK TO COURT WITH A CIVIL LAWSUIT…WHERE THEY’LL SUE FOR MONEY. THE LAWSUIT raises questions about what CHAUVIN’S options for a defense could be.
Enter qualified immunity.. It protects officers who use excessive force..
And it only pertains to civil cases. Qualified immunity isn’t a law, but a rule…set by the Supreme Court.
It says state officials are protected from being held liable in civil cases, quote–”even when they break the law.”
But some say qualified immunity just protects police who know they’re wrong…GIVING THEM A license to kill.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: “Qualified immunity deprives people of meaningful justice, even when everyone agrees their constitutional rights have been violated.”
LONGWORTH: Meanwhile, defenders will say a police officer’s job is really dangerous. They make split-second decisions that may be the difference between life and death.
JASON JOHNSON: “We want to give the officers the ability to act and not create an environment where the police will be so intimidated to act because they’re afraid they’re going to be sued that they simply avoid those situations and don’t act, even in an emergency or urgent situation.”
To grant an officer immunity, the court must answer two questions.
First – did the officer use excessive force?
If he didn’t, case closed. He gets qualified immunity.
If he DID use excessive force, then we ask, “Is there precedent for the case?”
Meaning – has that court ever held another officer liable in a similar case, under similar circumstances?
With precedent, they’re held responsible for the incident.
Without precedent, the officer’s immune.
The idea is that, without that precedent, the officer couldn’t necessarily have known he was in the wrong.
WE’LL BE WATCHING TO SEE IF CHAUVIN GETS QUALIFIED IMMUNITY IN HIS CIVIL TRIAL.
SO, NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHAT qualified immunity IS, YOU BE THE JUDGE.
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