WBUR Examines QI

WBUR examines qualified immunity (QI). The May 5 episode of WBUR’s On Point looks at the controversial doctrine.  

WBUR’s On Point is hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti with producer Anna Baum. The episode on QI is called “How Refroming Qualified Immunity Could Transform Policing in America.” The guests are Joanna Schwartz, Professor of Law at UCLA, and Colorado State Rep. Leslie Herod. In June 2020, Colorado became the first state to end qualified immunity. Rep. Herod was instrumental in making that happen.

The show also features Clark Neily. He’s the senior vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute. Cato is a coalition partner for the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.

As the title says, the episode looks at how reforming QI could transform policing in America. These days, police reform is an important topic of conversation. The demand for reform has grown since George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide outrage. 

One of the key issues around police reform is the qualified immunity doctrine. As Chakrabarti notes, the momentum to revisit QI has “gathered steam” this past year. In fact, it has taken center stage in the conversation around police reform.

WBUR’s On Point explains what qualified immunity is. The hosts and guests discuss how the Supreme Court created the doctrine in 1967. Also explored: current federal and state efforts to reform and even eliminate the doctrine.

On the show, Professor Schwartz calls QI a “shape-shifter.” From shielding “good-faith intent” to upholding “clearly established law,” the meaning of the doctrine has changed over the years. 

Now, qualified immunity is talked about in a different light. 

Its critics, like Professor Schwartz, Rep. Herod, and Clark Neily, view QI as an unethical loophole. Unethical because it protects bad public officials from accountability. Thus, ending qualified immunity is necessary to ensure that bad public officials are held accountable for their misconduct. 

Listen to WBUR’s On Point episode on qualified immunity here.