Black Westchester Magazine and End QI NY recently sat down for a virtual discussion on the need to repeal qualified immunity (QI) in New York. The conversation featured End QI NY co-founders Katerina Siira and Darlene McDay, along with retired NYPD officer and public safety advocate Corey Pegues. End QI NY is a coalition partner of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.
Off the bat, Pegues identified a key reason why New York lawmakers must take on the controversial doctrine. “One of the biggest factors for getting rid of qualified immunity…is that families will get their chance in court,” he told Black Westchester. “Their story will actually be heard.”
As it stands, qualified immunity is a substantial barrier to accountability when a rogue public official, such as a bad cop or corrections officer, violates someone’s rights. The doctrine shields these wrongdoers from liability, denying justice to the victims and/or their loved ones. Local legislators can put an end to these injustices by passing S 1991, the bill to abolish qualified immunity in the Empire State.
“With qualified immunity, many of these [civil rights] cases don’t get heard by a jury,” said Darlene McDay, echoing Corey Pegues’ statement. Getting rid of this unconstitutional rule will give victims of state abuse a powerful thing they desperately lack: a fair chance at seeking justice in civil court.
McDay knows firsthand what it means to have justice denied. As Black Westchester explains, “Her son, Dante Taylor, died by suicide in 2017 at the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo and in a lawsuit filed in 2020 alleges his death came after he was beaten by guards.” However, the bad guards faced no punishment for their violent assault. They got off on qualified immunity.
During the discussion, Katerina Siira noted that the call to pass S 1991 and end qualified immunity is not anti-police. In fact, a number of good public officials believe it’s the right thing to do.
“There are a lot of law enforcement officers and officials, just like Corey, who do support [S 1991],” Siira told Black Westchester. These honest officers value transparency and accountability, and as such are eager to build a better system, one that respects the rights of individuals and the safety of communities all over the state.
Black Westchester‘s piece concludes with tips on how New Yorkers can get involved in the fight to end QI. For example, they encourage readers to “pick up your mobile device right now and text ‘Go EndQINY’ to 50409 Ending Qualified Immunity by JUNE 2nd Deadline NYS (S1991 / A4331).”