Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun understands that the vast majority of our law enforcement officers conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach as they execute their duties.
Unfortunately, Braun told WIBC host Tony Katz Wednesday morning, the current interpretation of qualified immunity allows law enforcement in many of the high-profile excessive force and abuse of power cases to avoid civil suits from citizens for violation of their legal rights.
According to Senator Braun, the modern doctrine of qualified immunity has been used to protect law enforcement officers who:
- Assaulted and consequently broke the collarbone of an unarmed and nonviolent woman.
- Released a police dog on an unarmed person who had surrendered.
Braun recognizes the challenges inherent in the modern-day interpretation of qualified immunity as it relates to restoring trust between the general public and our law enforcement community. The Senator plans to address that legalistic barrier by introducing the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act – a piece of legislation that reinstates the original qualified immunity standard.
Under the law, Government employees, including law enforcement officers, would be permitted to claim qualified immunity when:
- Conduct alleged to be unlawful had previously been authorized or required by federal or state statute or regulation.
- A court had found that alleged unlawful conduct was consistent with the Constitution and federal laws.
According to Braun’s explanation of the legislation on his website, the bill would also permit a right of action against localities and municipalities to ensure that towns and cities are held accountable for the actions of their employees.
“This legislation would permit law enforcement officers who act in accordance with the law as ordained by courts and state or federal legislatures the defense they need to perform their jobs adequately and effectively, while removing misguided protection that has been extended to those who act under the color of the law to illegally deprive citizens of the rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution and our country’s laws.”
“The legislation is designed to more specifically outline qualified immunity rather than eliminate it,” Senator Braun told WIBC host Tony Katz. “Ending it would be in the category of defunding police departments or these ‘cop-free’ zones, which is the crazy talk you get from blue states and many blue state mayors.”
He continued: “This legislation is to have clarity on qualified immunity. Law enforcement is one of the toughest jobs out there and it’s being stigmatized by the actions of a few that wind up trampling the civil rights of individuals. If you don’t fix that, it will lead to the elimination of qualified immunity altogether, which is exactly what some Democrats would like to see happen.”
Senator Braun explained to Tony Katz how his legislation would function in practice under a scenario such as the George Floyd killing. Click below to hear Tony’s full interview with Senator Mike Braun.