Newsday Spotlights S 1991

Newsday, the Long Island, New York–based publication, spotlights S 1991, the bill to end qualified immunity (QI) in the Empire State, in a writeup by Mark Chiusano. 

“In the recent years of Democratic focus on criminal justice,” the Newsday piece begins, “there have been lots of calls to do something about qualified immunity, the Supreme Court doctrine that makes it difficult for individuals to bring civil rights violation cases against police officers and other government officials.”

Following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, federal lawmakers introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (JPA), which would’ve ended QI for bad cops nationwide. Yet despite overwhelming public support for abolishing the unjust rule, Congress ultimately failed the American people, and the JPA stalled in the Senate. However, since then, a handful of states have taken action by crafting their own QI-busting legislation. 

One of these states is New York, where Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter have cosponsored S 1991. This bill, Katerina Siira from END QI NY tells Newsday’s Chiusano, would create “a pathway in the state courts, for us to bring lawsuits for civil rights violations in the case of any violation of our state or federal constitutional rights.”

In the Newsday piece, Siira clarifies that the push to end QI in New York is not meant to call out police specifically. In fact, what makes S 1991 different from the JPA is that it would hold accountable a broader swath of state officials accused of violating someone’s rights. Rogue cops would fall under that category, but so would abusive correctional officers.

“We wouldn’t call this criminal justice reform,” Sirra explains to Newsday. Rather, S 1991 is more accurately described as “public safety reform,” as the lack of accountability has eroded New Yorkers’ trust in the legal system.   

“If people have a perception that there’s no accountability for cops, it means a lack of trust between police and the communities they serve,” Mark Chiusano elaborates, “meaning fewer people talk to officers and fewer crimes get solved.” 

As Newsday points out, “The website of one of [End QI NY’s] national partners, nonprofit Campaign to End Qualified Immunity, features a picture of a ‘good cop’ and one of a ‘bad cop.’ ‘Love the good ones,’ the site says, ‘prosecute the bad ones.’”

If S 1991 passes and New York ends qualified immunity, then good cops—as well as all honest public officials—across the state will finally gain the trust they need to truly protect and serve their communities. 

Read the entire Newsday writeup here.