One year later, qualified immunity (QI) is still at the forefront of the national conversation about police accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. May 25, 2021, marks the one year anniversary of Floyd’s murder at the hands of ex-cop Derek Chauvin. In the last 12 months, we’ve witnessed a dramatic increase in the nationwide demand for greater police accountability. One of the biggest obstacles to holding bad cops accountable is qualified immunity. The court-created doctrine has been in the spotlight ever since George Floyd’s death shook the world.
One year later, not only is QI in the spotlight, it’s also in the hot seat.
The impact of George Floyd’s murder influences QI policy nationwide. On a federal level, lawmakers introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and reintroduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. On a state level, Colorado and New Mexico recently passed bills ending QI for bad cops. Meanwhile, New York City and Connecticut implemented legislation limiting the defense.
One the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we explore some of the current national efforts to address the issue of qualified immunity.
As The Buffalo News reports, Albany’s next front in police reform is ending qualified immunity. New York State Senator Robert Jackson is the chief sponsor of S 1991. This bill targets QI in the Empire State. “A year after the George Floyd murder, we continue to see these families denied that justice because of qualified immunity, and this must stop. We will continue pushing to make sure this bill passes,” Senator Jackson says.
Read the entire Buffalo News article here.
In the Buckeye State, activists such as ACLU lobbyist Gary Daniels fight to hold bad cops accountable. As the Ohio Capital Journal notes, efforts to pass comprehensive police reform have stalled. This propelled the ACLU’s Gary Daniels and other activists, such as Accountability Now Ohio, to pressure Governor Mike DeWine. They want the governor to keep his promises and introduce critical legislation. Legislation such as ending qualified immunity.
Read the entire Ohio Capital Journal article here.
A recent report from The Salt Lake Tribune examines how George Floyd’s death affected Utah. Following Floyd’s murder in Minnesota, state leaders in Utah banned chokeholds and increased police training. But what about accountability? On that issue, local activist Rae Duckworth tells the Tribune “we still have a long way to go.” In the article, Duckworth calls for an end to qualified immunity. She wants to hold all bad cops accountable.
Read the entire Salt Lake Tribune article here.
The state of Maine also reflects on how policing has changed there in the year since George Floyd’s death. WMTW-TV mentions that as a result of Floyd’s murder, Portland’s school boards pulled armed police from its high schools. In Lewiston, officers began wearing body cameras. And as WMTW-TV notes, “state legislators are considering revoking qualified immunity.” (The bill in question: LD-214, An Act to Eliminate Qualified Immunity, sponsored by state rep. Jeffrey Evangelos.) As Michael Kebede of ACLU Maine told the local news outlet, it’s important to “reduce the power…of police” and “invest in communities.”
Watch WMTW-TV’s segment and read the transcript here.
Other states reflecting on police reform, racial justice, and QI one year later are Michigan, Washington, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.