Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is adamant about ending qualified immunity for police officers across the country and is not afraid to say it.
“I am not giving up on qualified immunity,” Waters said on the show. “I do not want to send any message to anybody that I am willing to support legislation that does not have it in it. I think we have got to be tough, we have got to be consistent and understand that we have got to hold police officers accountable.”
Qualified immunity grants police officers immunity from being sued by citizens unless the plaintiff shows the officer violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Many believe qualified immunity and police records that are unavailable to the public act as a shield and a license to kill for police, who can shoot first without worry and ask questions later. Waters, along with civil rights activists and other Democratic lawmakers, believe ending the practice would stop police from attacking and shooting people since they could be taken to court.
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to nation and worldwide protests and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, it did not stop police from killing or shooting Black men as Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks and Andrew Brown have been shot by police in the year since Floyd’s death.
Waters has support for her stance. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) told the Washington Post she “wasn’t prepared” to offer her colleagues a bill that does not address qualified immunity, even if she gets everything else that she wants in the legislation.
“I’m not prepared to do that,” Bass told the Post. “I think qualified immunity is essential to be in the bill.”
A year after George Floyd’s murder, Black Americans are still marching and protesting for police reform, but things seem to going backward a bit. Los Angeles is going back on its commitment to cut the LAPD’s budget; Meanwhile Florida and Oklahoma have passed laws protecting drivers who hit and run protestors. Tennessee lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill, but that effort failed.
Last month, New York City became the first major city to reform qualified immunity. While the city didn’t completely abandon the practice, it eliminates qualified immunity for city police officers. Corrections officers and child services officials are still protected by qualified immunity.