On June 24, Ben Cohen promoted his new book, Above the Law: How “Qualified Immunity” Protects Violent Police, on Soul of a Nation. Sojourners produces the podcast. On Soul of the Nation, host Rev. Jim Wallis talks to Ben Cohen about racial justice and police accountability. Furthermore, Ben discusses Above the Law. With his new book, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s and co-chair of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity hopes to shed some light on the controversial doctrine.
First and foremost, Above the Law tells the story of 12 everyday Americans impacted by police violence. The book looks at how justice was denied these victims because of qualified immunity (QI). Above the Law also features a foreword by activist and rapper Killer Mike.
On Soul of the Nation, Ben expresses his outrage at the unjust doctrine. He explains how, thanks to QI, bad cops face zero consequences for abusing their power. As he tells Soul of the Nation host Jim Wallis, Bad cops “are murdering unarmed Black people.” And due to qualified immunity, they get off with barely “a slap on the wrist.”
Ben Cohen wants to change that. On Soul of a Nation, he explains the origin of qualified immunity. He points out that QI is a legal doctrine, not a law. As he says, QI was “created out of whole cloth” by the Supreme Court. Thus, Ben notes, lawmakers can pass legislation to overturn the rule.
And a number have done just that.
For example, two states recently repealed QI: Colorado and New Mexico. Meanwhile, states such as New York have bills on the docket that target the doctrine. And, on the federal level, legislators hope to end QI through the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Ultimately, the call to end qualified immunity is a demand for better policing. Ben makes it clear on Soul of the Nation that ending QI is not anti-cop. Rather, it’s pro-good policing. “In order to have good policing,” Ben tells Jim Wallis, “we need to have the trust of the community.” And, he continues, “you can’t have the trust of the community unless you’re willing to be held accountable.”
With his new book, Above the Law, Ben Cohen hopes to amplify the growing call for greater police accountability.