FOP President Rick Synder says Senator Mike Braun did not seek input from the law enforcement community before putting forth his controversial Reforming Qualified Immunity Act on the – a bill that would revoke the current standard that shields police officers from civil lawsuits if their behavior didn’t violate a “clearly established” law.
Braun’s bill would instead make a police officer eligible for qualified immunity only if the conduct in question “had previously been authorized or required by federal or state statute or regulation” or if a court has found it is “consistent with the Constitution and federal laws.”
“The fact is that Sen. Braun did not consult with any representative of a law enforcement organization prior to the introduction of the bill,” Snyder told the Hammer and Nigel Show Tuesday. “In fact, we put out a statement on the day that he was going to introduce the bill that we were not aware of it, didn’t have any details, and were hopeful that we would have an opportunity to better understand exactly what it was that he was trying to achieve.”
In initial defending his bill, Sen. Braun argued in a statement last week that it’s time for Congress to weigh in on the scope of qualified immunity.
“To claim qualified immunity under the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act, a government employee such as a police officer would have to prove that there was a statute or court case in the relevant jurisdiction showing his or her conduct was authorized: a meaningful change that will help law enforcement and the citizens they protect,” Braun said.
The Republican Senator later told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in a contentious exchange Monday night that his bill has the support of the law enforcement community in Indiana. FOP President Snyder, however, told Hammer and Nigel that Senator Braun’s assertion was wholly inaccurate.
“Our law enforcement officers throughout the state of Indiana were severely disappointed when it was intimated that we were in support of the bill when we had not been engaged in the process from the beginning,” said Snyder, later adding that it would be prudent to understand the realities of what law enforcement officers deal with on a daily basis prior to penning legislation.
“This is the unfortunate consequence of what happens when we start politicizing policing,” Snyder charged. “I’ve said time and time again that politics cannot play a role in policing.”
He continued: “We’ve had that in the past, which is why we have things like the Civil Rights Movement and additional steps to put in things like police merit boards, civilian oversight – all those kinds of issues. We have that here in Indianapolis. But to move backward and inject politics into policing sets us back decades; it doesn’t move us forward.”
In addition to the lack of input from the law enforcement community, Snyder pointed to data that indicates Senator Braun’s bill will institute reforms that are both unnecessary and would serve as little benefit to plaintiffs pursuing civil charges against an officer.
“According to research, qualified immunity under its current definition was only upheld in 3.2% of all legal cases that were reviewed,” said Snyder. “That means 97% of the time, the cases proceed. In other words, qualified immunity simply siphons out nuisance complaints that don’t deal with a clear violation of the law.”
Snyder further noted that law enforcement officers aren’t the only public servants protected by qualified immunity.
“The Senator himself has immunity from criminal arrest and civil actions related to decisions that he makes and policies he’s established,” Snyder said. “I don’t know Senator Braun well, but I would have to venture a guess that he probably would be reluctant to do the job of United States Senator if everything he did in that official capacity would subject him personally liable to his businesses, his home, and his family. Most people would not do these sort of jobs if they did not have some level of a barrier.”
FOP President Snyder offered additional commentary on Sen. Braun’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. Click the link below to hear his full interview with the Hammer and Nigel Show.