by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service
Massachusetts lawmakers in Congress have reintroduced legislation which would allow people to sue police officers and other state and local government officials.
The Ending Qualified Immunity Act would eliminate the doctrine created by the Supreme Court, which protects police officers from individual liability for violating a person’s constitutional rights.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said the bill ensures police, and all officials, are held accountable for their actions.
“It makes no sense that the very people responsible for enforcing the law face no consequences for breaking it,” Pressley contended.
The bill was first introduced in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and Pressley argued it provides the families of those abused by police with the healing they deserve. Supporters of qualified immunity said officers should not have to fear lawsuits when dealing with potentially dangerous suspects.
More than 1,000 people in the U.S. were killed by police last year, a record high, according to the nonprofit Mapping Police Violence.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said for decades, qualified immunity has shielded officers who use excessive force, far too often suffered by Black and brown Americans.
“There will be no true justice until there is racial justice,” Markey asserted. “And there will be no racial justice until we end qualified immunity.”
Markey added victims and their families are due their day in court against those officials who violate their civil rights. At least forty lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.