Over the last few years, members of Congress have casually talked about the need for police reform. Americans’ desire for police reform, as evidenced in a recent Gallup poll, reignited those talks.
Often, the topic of “qualified immunity” is brought up as an area in need of reform when it comes to policing. But what exactly is qualified immunity, and how does it fit into the law enforcement puzzle?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is qualified immunity?
The Supreme Court created the concept of “qualified immunity” — as it pertains now to police — in the early 1980s as a means of protecting civil servants from being sued and held personally responsible for actions that violated a person’s constitutional rights, unless a court ruled those actions were “clearly established” and deemed unconstitutional.
According to the Institute for Justice, “qualified immunity was established in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, a case that had absolutely nothing to do with law enforcement.”
“It was brought by a whistleblower