Founder of True Homestead Eric McDonough and Matt Savoy from the Free Thought Project discuss their opinions on qualified immunity and whether it should be removed.
McDonough says there is a lack of accountability within police departments and that “absolute power corrupts.” Qualified immunity is something McDonough, alongside other activists, have been working to remove for a long time.
“It's something that really needs to either be dropped altogether or seriously modified. It's near impossible to sue a cop—no matter how egregious the actions they take are, no matter the evidence that you have. You can have everything on video and written admissions and if you don't have a case directly on point that tells the cop that that was a violation of law, you don't have a case,” McDonough says.
Qualified immunity only applies to civil lawsuits; it doesn’t apply to criminality. McDonough says that cops can always be charged criminally. However, the chances of a prosecutor wanting to prosecute a cop, a jury finding them guilty, and the cop receiving a harsh sentence is low. Without qualified immunity, McDonough says, cops would be reluctant to work with prosecutors on other cases if they felt they would be charged for doing their job.
Savoy believes that qualified immunity would actually help a cop do their job better by being more transparent and accountable for their actions. Savoy said he interviewed a cop on his podcast who was fired from her police department in Florida for trying to get rid of qualified immunity.
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“They're addicted to this lack of accountability and qualified immunity is one of these blankets that just needs to get pulled back,” Savoy says.
Savoy says the majority of cops don’t support removing qualified immunity. However, Savoy noted, in any other profession—such as an airline pilot or a physician—you can’t kill someone and automatically be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“If an airline pilot could just crash a plane or a doctor could just stab a patient in the heart and be like, ‘well, there was no precedent saying that that violated your constitutional rights. Therefore, I shouldn't be held liable for that.’ That’s asinine,” Savoy says.
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