States can end qualified immunity (QI). And they should, Chris Kemmitt and Georgina Yeomans write. Specifically, in a recent piece for Slate. Kemmitt and Yeomans are civil rights attorneys. In addition, they work for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Not just that, but the two legal experts are vocal critics of the controversial doctrine.
This week, the Supreme Court upheld qualified immunity. In two separate cases, the Court ruled in favor of bad cops who used excessive force. Sadly, this is another example of the federal government’s inability to protect the public from police abuse.
However, as Chris Kemmitt and Georgina Yeomans note in Slate, these setbacks “[don’t] mean…that meaningful reform is impossible.” In fact, far from it. Ultimately, a viable way exists to hold bad cops accountable.
“It’s now fully up to the states,” Kemmitt and Yeomans say, “to protect Americans from the horrific consequences of qualified immunity.” The attorneys elaborate: “Just as the Constitution protects the civil rights of all Americans, every state has its own constitutional protections for the civil rights of people within its borders.”
Thus, individual states can take action to ensure police accountability—and some already have.
First, Colorado. In June 2020, Colorado became the first state to end QI. Furthermore, Chris Kemmitt and Georgina Yeomans call the Centennial State’s provision the “gold standard for qualified immunity legislation.”
Second, New Mexico. In April 2021, the Land of Enchantment passed a civil rights bill targeting QI. This bill “grants individuals the right to sue state and local government [officials] when their rights have been violated.”
Third, California. In September 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that “removed immunity for…law-enforcement misconduct.” With this act, the nation’s largest state strengthens public safety for all its citizens.
Although states “cannot eliminate qualified immunity altogether,” Chris Kemmitt and Georgina Yeomans conclude, they can “make major progress” toward safeguarding people from rogue police. Colorado, New Mexico, and California prove this. Plus, the more states that end qualified immunity, the greater the impact nationwide.
Read the entire article on states ending QI here.