Progressive lawmakers, advocates rally for bill to end qualified immunity

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Wednesday marks six days until the end of the New York State legislative session and, before it’s over progressive lawmakers and advocates are hoping to end what’s called “qualified immunity.”

Qualified immunity protects public officials like police from civil lawsuits if it can be argued the official wasn’t aware that he or she was violating someone’s constitutional rights.

“The way courts have interpreted this, you can almost never bring a case against someone for abusing their authority in law enforcement,” said NYS Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris.

“We want a law that basically says that all public officials who have the authority, do not violate any member of our state’s constitutional rights that would be a violation of the state law or the federal law,” said NYS Senator Robert Jackson.

The legislation to end qualified immunity has been opposed by some in law enforcement like the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.

“It’s going to impose a very unfair burden on them, essentially asking them to be psychic to understand in advance what some court is going to rule is a constitutional right,” said New York State Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe.

But, others in the law enforcement community say the changes should be made. “It’s not about getting rid of all the cops and suing all the cops. It’s about changing bad behavior. It’s about being accountable. It’s about being transparent. It’s about listening to our community,” said Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox.

Lawmakers have until next Thursday to get it passed through both houses. It’s still in committee.

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