Equal Justice Initiative Argues after Tyre Nichols Killing It’s Time to Seriously Reconsider Eliminating Police Qualified Immunity

via www.actionnews5.com

By Brinda Kalita and Destiny Gurrola

MEMPHIS, TN Equal Justice Initiative argues in “Eliminating Barriers to Police Accountability after the death of Tyre Nichols,” the “needless death of Tyre Nichols serves as a reminder that there is a lot that needs to be done in regards to holding our country’s police accountable.”

As seen in the video released by the Memphis police of the graphic incident, five Memphis police officers brutally beat Nichols at a traffic stop Jan. 7. He died of his injuries three days later.

EJI explains Nichols’ story, like many other instances of police brutality, shows the world that, once again, our police forces need to be held accountable to a greater degree than they are now. But there are many legal barriers holding the country back from doing so.

One of these barriers, EJI states, is qualified immunity.

In a different EJI article, the authors note this legal doctrine effectively limits legal remedies for victims of police violence or misconduct.

Qualified immunity, in the article, is defined as “a statute that exists as a means to offer a line of legal defense for the police in America. Essentially, it holds that the suing of an officer for compensation will stand as invalid or incompetent unless it is proven that the actions of the officer were unlawful and there is a precedential case to refer to as a means to identify the issue and prosecute accordingly.”

EJI notes in the article, “What makes this a strong doctrine in terms of giving police officers immunity is because of the requirement to fulfill both prongs, both of which are difficult to make a case for.

“Oftentimes, there are not many cases which would give a precedent to be referred to because either the courts are reluctant to establish anything that may be used in the future against the powers of officials. Or otherwise, it is simply because the doctrine has been in place for some time which made any new precedents near impossible to make.”

Additionally, EJI asserts, “The difficulty of actually fulfilling these two prongs ultimately makes it difficult for police brutality to go unpunished. It also denies people their constitutional rights.”

EJI adds the concept of qualified immunity was not always meant to protect the police in the way that it does now:

“The conception of qualified immunity began as response to the initial tool given to Black people during the time of Reconstruction in the United States (when) Black people in the United States were being terrorized and tortured by both white citizens and white police officers.

“So, the Civil Rights Act of 1871 was put into place which allowed private individuals to take legal action against police officers and officials, when their constitutional rights have been violated. During this time, many precedents were established which gave black people a legal way to push back against those who abused their status and power.”

However, EJI maintains, “by the time of the Civil rights movement in 1967, there was a retreat from this remedy. Thus the announcement of the line of defense for police officers was birthed, qualified immunity.”

EJI adds that as the original purpose of qualified immunity is no longer being fulfilled, it may be time to consider its elimination entirely.

Both the Supreme Court and Congress have the power to do so, EJI argues, adding the SCOTUS can end it because it is the original creator of the doctrine.

Or, EJI adds, Congress can end the policy by simply amending the Title 42 U.S. Code section 1983 to remove qualified immunity as a defense for officers who engage in civil rights violations.

EJI said the killing of Tyre Nichols highlights the serious need to eliminate qualified immunity in order to enact permanent change.

About The Author

Brinda is a student at UC Riverside, pursuing a degree in History with a Law and Society emphasis. She plans to attend law school after receiving her bachelors.

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