Usually nothing happens to cops when they behave badly; that is because of “qualified immunity.” Cops Kill Because We Gave Them The Legal Framework to Do It.
Get rid of that, and they would stop doing a lot of things.
In the wake of the Civil War, freed southern blacks were terrorized by lynch mobs and other attackers. Congress responded to Ku Klux Klan violence against freed southern blacks by enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1871 to authorize lawsuits against any person acting “under color of” law who causes a “deprivation of any rights… secured by the Constitution and laws.” But in a series of decisions beginning in 1967, the Supreme Court gutted that law by permitting police and other government agents to claim they acted in “good faith” when violating citizens’ rights. In 1982, the Supreme Court granted government officials immunity unless they violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Regardless of centuries of court rulings that clearly demarcated citizens’ constitutional rights, the Supreme Court decided government officials deserved “qualified immunity” unless a prior court case had condemned almost exactly the same abusive behavior. Federal judge Don Willett declared in 2018 that “qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior—no matter how palpably unreasonable—as long as they were the first to behave badly.”
Qualified immunity was a series of bad decisions, but because of Stare Decisis, the legal doctrine which says a bad decision is better than a good law, the Courts created a whole series of protections for cops, doing just about anything they want. It isn’t right, and it isn’t making society a better place. But the legislature can’t fix this. Because the justices on the SCOTUS have appointed themselves our dictatorial rulers.
People always ask, “How do we fix this?” Well one place to start would be with qualified immunity. Anyway, go read the whole thing. You won’t be disappointed.
And while you’re at it, you can consider a case from last year, that you probably didn’t hear about, that has many similarities to the George Floyd case. Police laughed and joked as he lost consciousness in handcuffs. Minutes later, he died.
The evidence unearthed by Vicki Timpa and her lawyers, along with the Morning News and NBC5, has led to an excessive force lawsuit in federal court and an indictment of three of the officers involved, Kevin Mansell, Danny Vasquez and Dustin Dillard. In March, the Dallas County district attorney dismissed the charges against them, and they returned to active duty the next month.