The Problem: The U.S. court system established the doctrine of qualified immunity in 1967 to protect government employees “acting in good faith.” It was claimed that qualified immunity would allow police officers to do their job effectively, including making split-second, life-or-death decisions without fear of frivolous lawsuits or verdicts based on information not available at the time of action. Over the years, court rulings have greatly expanded qualified immunity, effectively preventing police offers from being held accountable in the court of law1. This immunity potentially incentivizes police abuse by limiting accountability measures, a common perception that has yet to be empirically validated. The exercise of qualified immunity inflates the power of law enforcement and adequately deflects the actions of officers that violate the civil rights of others. This loophole of police accountability often leaves victims of police misconduct with no civil remedy.
We support revising qualified immunity protections for law enforcement to a more finite definition that ensures police officers are held accountable for brutality, civil rights violations, and other illegal conduct. In the spirit of advancing police reform on a national, state, and local scale, CJR recommends the following: