Massachusetts Democrats are not backing down from efforts to end qualified immunity. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Sen. Ed Markey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have introduced a bill to abolish the legal doctrine established by the judiciary that protects police and law enforcement from being held personally liable for violating someone’s constitutional rights.
“We must fully end the doctrine of qualified immunity which for too long has shielded law enforcement from accountability and denied recourse for the countless families robbed of their loved ones,” Pressley said, according to The Intercept.
Noting the doctrine contributes to systemic racism, Pressley said it needed to be abolished before real change could come. “There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability with qualified immunity,” Pressley continued.
Markey echoed Pressley’s sentiment citing cases like Elijah McClain, who died after being placed in a chokehold by police and injected by paramedics with an inappropriate dose of ketamine.
“It’s time we end the outdated and judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity and start delivering accountability for the officers who abuse their positions of trust and responsibility in our communities,” Markey said. “There will not be true racial justice until we end qualified immunity.”
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This is not the first time the lawmakers have proposed such legislation. The bill was first introduced last year as an amendment to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in wake of the unprecedented protests against police brutality, The Intercept reported. However, the bill was not included in the final version of the Act passed last June, which was ultimately held up in the then-Republican controlled Senate.
House Democrats passed the bill again Wednesday, March 3, AP reported. In addition to ending qualified immunity, it will ban chokeholds and bolster police accountability if passed by the Senate.
“Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition, told AP.
In addition to the three aforementioned Democrats, the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act of 2021” is sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Cori Bush, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alcee Hastings and a slew of others.
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