Members of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity (CTEQI) coalition including Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, Clark Neily, and Jay Schweikert held a press conference to call on Congress to end qualified immunity (QI). On Thursday, May 19, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and co-chairs of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity held a press conference outside the Supreme Court. Joining them in Washington, D.C., were CTEQI partners from across the ideological spectrum, including the Libertarian Cato Institute and the progressive Our Revolution.
FOX Business covered the event. The news outlet reports that the purpose of the press conference was to urge Congress to “act ahead of the first anniversary of [George] Floyd’s death.” Specifically, calling on Congress to end qualified immunity. As FOX notes, CTEQI formed in response to George Floyd’s murder last May.
Ben, Jerry, and their fellow speakers believe abolishing QI is necessary for police reform. Because the doctrine shields police officers from civil lawsuits, bad cops rarely face accountability. In turn, this lack of accountability enables bad cops to use excessive force with impunity.
“Ending qualified immunity will bring accountability for police and justice for the victims whose rights have been violated,” Jerry said at the press conference. “We know that the Senate right now is involved in negotiations and we are here to tell them that ending qualified immunity must be part of the agreement.”
After the press conference, Ben and Jerry handed out ice cream; answered QI-related questions; and delivered copies of Ben’s new book, Above the Law, to senators.
Press Conference Goals
Ben and Jerry’s goal is to raise awareness about the controversial doctrine. As FOX Business notes, “the issue of qualified immunity is seen as the chief obstacle to a police reform package’s passage in the Senate.” The package in question is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 3.
Republican lawmakers are concerned. They say ending QI will make policing more difficult. They’re afraid abolishing the rule will “undermine recruitment efforts.” But as Ben and Jerry argue, ending QI will only affect bad cops. Good cops who already obey the law and respect people’s rights have nothing to worry about. In fact, weeding out bad apples will improve policing, not undermine it. That’s the message that brought CTEQI’s founders and partners to the nation’s capital on May 19.
Read more about the press conference featuring members of the CTEQI coalition here.