Jim Wallis, founding director of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice, examines qualified immunity (QI) through an ethical lens in a recent USA Today op-ed. In recent years, business leaders, pro athletes, and creative artists have all spoken out against the controversial doctrine. Now, with Jim Wallis, we can add another group to the list: faith leaders.
As a faith leader, Wallis believes that police accountability is a question of morality—and that QI is highly immoral. “What qualified immunity means morally and practically today in America,” he explains, “is letting white police officers get away with misconduct against Black people.”
Qualified immunity protects racialized policing and upholds white supremacy in law enforcement. This creates an “implicit racial bias [that] leads white police officers to treat Black people in their districts differently.” Thus, Jim Wallis notes, qualified immunity breaks down the accountability and public trust that police require in order to do their jobs.
Wallis suggests that introducing ethics classes in police academies could combat systemic racism and promote “safe and effective policing.” He explains that “these classes could be nonsectarian” and “inclusive of all.”
Nondogmatic moral instruction, paired with screenings of police recruits for racial bias, active community building, and eliminating qualified immunity, would greatly improve law enforcement. With such resources available, police would learn to lead with kindness and empathy. The result: the creation of a truly just system that serves everyone equally, one built on cooperation and respect.
“As we have learned already, particularly from the experiences of Black Americans,” Jim Wallis concludes, “fairness without accountability is simply not possible. And true accountability for our police officers entails ending qualified immunity.”
Read the entire Jim Wallis op-ed here.