Sen. Cory Booker Calls For An End To Qualified Immunity For Law Enforcement

Sen. Cory Booker wants to bring new accountability for law enforcement officials, co-sponsoring a sweeping bill that would end the practice of qualified immunity that protects officers from being sued for actions that don’t violate a statute or constitutional right.

As NPR reported, the New Jersey senator is a co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which aims to end dangerous practices and increase training for officers. The report noted that the bill would ban the use of chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants like the one used by police in Louisville that led to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. It would also outlaw racial profiling.

Booker said the overall aim is to increase accountability for police officers.

“These are common sense changes that, frankly, will create a far greater level of accountability for those police officers who violate the law, who violate our rights and who violate our common community standards,” Booker told NPR.

The bill comes in response to the rising protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police, who have since been charged for his death. Protests have risen up across the country, with many calling not only for justice for Floyd’s family but also for larger reform to address systemic racism within law enforcement and laws that protect officers from being held accountable.

Booker pointed out the practice of qualified immunity, which keeps police from being personally liable for lawsuits, preventing citizens from seeking civil action in a number of cases. Many protesters have called for an end to this practice, which Booker noted does not come from any written law.

“Qualified immunity is something that has evolved over time. It’s not written into any law,” Booker said. “But our highest courts in the land have decided that police officers are immune from civil cases, unless there’s been specifically in the past a case of generally the exact circumstances that has led towards a successful action…. It creates this bar towards civil action against a police officer for violating your civil rights.”

Booker’s office already shared broad details of the proposal earlier in the week, noting that the bill would also aim to improve transparency by collecting more accurate data of police misconduct and incidents when officers use force. A number of reform advocates have called for a national registry to track officers who have been found guilty of misconduct, and Booker’s bill would follow through by creating one. This would prevent officers disciplined or fired from departments from getting another job in law enforcement with a different department.

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