“As a Black man raised in New York,” Robert Jackson says, “I am cognizant that there is nothing unwise or untimely about ending that which harms us, that which undermines the civil rights of many in this country, and that which allows the Supreme Court to uphold laws that shield public officials whose actions disproportionately harm Black and Brown people. Yes, we must end qualified immunity now.”
As the senator remarks, the racial justice protests of 2020 have sparked a critical conversation around public safety. “More than ever before,” he says, “legitimate questions are arising about police power and the best tools to hold individuals and systems accountable when power is abused.”
Lawmakers such as Senator Jackson have taken action in addressing these pressing issues. What they have discovered, time and again, is that qualified immunity is the biggest obstacle to holding bad state officials accountable for their willful misconduct.
“The constant stream of qualified immunity decisions,” says Robert Jackson in his op-ed, “tells officers that they are almost sure to avoid criminal prosecution and are highly unlikely to face any civil liability in state courts.” This, in turn, drives a wedge between the police and communities, eroding public trust.
In the spring of 2021, Senator Jackson introduced S 1991, which he describes as “the nation’s most comprehensive bill…that would allow us to do away with [QI].” Bolstered by overwhelming public support and the backing of organizations such as End QI NY and the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity, this measure has a solid shot of passing in the New York State Legislature this year.
“The battle to end qualified immunity can’t wait,” the senator concludes. “Too many Black and Brown families continue to suffer without any path for justice or retribution because of this obscure legal doctrine.”
Passing S 1991 and ending qualified immunity will finally open up a path to keeping all New Yorkers safe.
Read the entire Robert Jackson op-ed here.