(WASHINGTON) – Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03) introduced the Qualified Immunity Act today that would codify clearly established Supreme Court precedent in favor of qualified immunity and the protections it provides for law enforcement agents into statutory law. The bill has already received praise from police groups: The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the Indiana State Police Alliance, the National Center for Police Defense and the Police Officers Defense Coalition have all endorsed it.
Qualified immunity, as explained by the Supreme Court, “shields police officers from harassment, distraction and liability when they perform their duty reasonably.”
“Ending qualified immunity is another way of saying abolish the police,” said Rep. Jim Banks. “No doubt criminals would love the chance to open endless frivolous lawsuits against the officers who put them behind bars. I’ve heard from many that work in law enforcement that if we strip them of qualified immunity, they’d be forced to quit, because they couldn’t afford to serve any longer.”
“Police officers need protection in order to perform discretionary functions fundamental to law enforcement,” said FOP National President Patrick Yoes. “Every single factual scenario an officer encounters is different and unknown. A reasonable officer needs to be afforded a certain degree of discretion to make split-second decisions in situations that could put lives, including their own, at risk.”
“The bill clearly and concisely articulates the concept of qualified immunity as understood from decades of judicial interpretation and application,” said a spokesperson for the Indiana State Police Association.
“Representative Jim Banks’ new legislation will codify qualified immunity for law enforcement officers,” said James Fotis, President of the National Center for Police Defense, an organization that helps law enforcement officers with their defense when they are charged with a crime after protecting and serving in the manner that they were trained.
Fotis continued, “Rep. Banks’ qualified immunity legislation would give law enforcement the initiative that they need to move forward in a time when the ‘War on Cops’ is raging. Rep. Banks’ legislation would help to stop punitive lawsuits that could be levied against a law enforcement officer for rights violations if ‘qualified immunity’ is not codified through the legislative process. In this time of law and order despair, I encourage all law enforcement and the organizations that represent them to help Rep. Jim Banks pass this important legislation.”
The final bill text is here.
Rep. Banks has lamented Democrats’ crusade to overturn qualified immunity. By adding language to their police reform bill that would overturn qualified immunity, Rep. Banks said “Democrats inserted a ‘poison pill,’ language they know will mean the legislation will be defeated by the opposing party.”