New York City Council passed a reform bill that ends qualified immunity for police officers, among an overhaul of other policing practices.
The doctrine of qualified immunity has been around for decades to protect police officers from civil lawsuits against them by those they arrest, but has been targeted by activists following the racial injustice and police brutality protests.
According to activists, the doctrine gives officers perhaps too much immunity. NYC Council speaker spoke of the doctrine in a tweet saying, “Rooted in our nation’s history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades. It should never have been allowed, but I’m proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC. 2/2.”
According to a Fox News report, the bill is intended to protect New Yorkers from unreasonable search and seizures and excessive force, in addition to ending qualified immunity. New York will be the third state to ban qualified immunity, along with Connecticut and Colorado.
The bill will go to Governor Bill De Blasio’s desk, who is expected to sign off on it. State lawmakers simultaneously approved De Blasio’s $72 million plan to improve “police practices and accountability,” which comes after $1 billion of funds were diverted from the city’s police budget last summer.
Other provisions in the bill aim to increase ways to investigate police misconduct, racial biases, as well as require police to collect data on traffic stops that includes individuals’ race.
Opponents of the bill believe it will discourage people from joining law enforcement and will make their job more difficult. Councilman Robert Holden who voted no on the bill said, “Ending qualified immunity will prevent the best young men and women in our city from joining the police force.”
Police unions were also opposed to the measure. Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said, “New Yorkers are getting shot, and police officers are on the streets day and night, trying to stop the bloodshed. [The bill] will chill the operations of law enforcement.”