Warren, Pressley among Dems pushing to strip police of 'qualified immunity'

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Democrats in the House and Senate reintroduced legislation this week to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers to pave the way for alleged victims of police brutality to file lawsuits. 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., along with fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, are among the co-sponsors of the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act” that aims to abolish the legal protections for law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits.

“There will not be true racial justice until we end qualified immunity,” Markey said in a statement. 

Pressley and former Rep. Justin Amash, a Libertarian from Michigan, first introduced the legislation last year after the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police that sparked civil unrest throughout the summer. 

The legislation states that the qualified immunity doctrine, which can protect cops from being held personally liable, does not provide police officers that brutalize or otherwise violate civil rights with defense or immunity from liability for their actions.

If qualified immunity is eliminated, many more lawsuits against police could proceed to a trial or settlement, and police departments could have more trouble finding insurance carriers to pay out the uptick in settlements to victims of police brutality.

Other co-sponsors include Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and progressive Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Cori Bush, D-Mo.

Pressley, a member of the so-called progressive Squad, offered the legislation as the House is set to consider police reform legislation this month. The Democrats’ “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” passed the House last year but died in the GOP-led Senate. 

“We must fully end the doctrine of qualified immunity which for too long has shielded law enforcement from accountability and denied recourse for the countless families robbed of their loved ones,” Pressley said in a statement.

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“There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability with qualified immunity,” she said. “We must act with urgency. We must be bold and unapologetic in our pursuit of policy that increases police accountability and addresses the crisis of police brutality plaguing Black and brown communities.”

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