MSNBC’s Velshi Explores QI

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi explores qualified immunity (QI). In a recent segment of his program, the journalist discusses the qualified immunity doctrine. 

Limiting or ending QI “could fundamentally change policing,” Velshi states. The doctrine is very controversial. QI’s supporters defend it because they feel police need special protections when making split-second decisions. However, those who oppose QI feel differently. They believe that QI shields bad cops from accountability when they act unlawfully. 

Velshi starts his segment by telling the story of Amy Hughes from Arizona. On May 21, 2010, Amy was having a mental health crisis when she was shot four times by police. Amy was holding a knife but presented no real danger. Amy survived the shooting. When she recovered, she sued the cop who injured her. In her suit, Amy claimed that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated. But, as Velshi says, the officer who shot Amy was granted QI by the US Supreme Court. 

In fact, qualified immunity was created by the Supreme Court. The doctrine’s original intention was to protect public officials from “frivolous” lawsuits. Unless, as Velshi points out,” the accused violated a clearly established constitutional right.” However, proving this “clearly established” violation in court is difficult. That’s why many cases of police violence don’t get to see the light of day.

Still, QI has its critics. Among them are those who sit on the nation’s highest bench. These critics are Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor. As Velshi says, Justice Sotomayor is a particularly vocal critic of qualified immunity. She calls the doctrine a license to “shoot first, think later.” 

In his segment, Velshi also brings up a recent Reuters study that looks at qualified immunity.  Published as a four-part series, the study features stories, provides statistics, and talks to legal experts. The goal of Reuters’ investigation is to look at the wide-ranging effects of qualified immunity. 

Watch MSNBC’s Ali Velshi explore QI here.