The rage these days on the left is defunding the police and ending qualified immunity.  The buzzword they use these days is they want to "reimagine" policing.  The elected Michigan House Democrats do not want to be left out of those great ideas so they have joined the hate on police bandwagon.

On Tuesday they announced a “reform” package of 16 bills.  A package they call Justice for All.  Some of the reforms they call for are a ban on chokeholds, prohibit no-knock search warrants and ending qualified immunity in cases of unreasonable force.  

It is my understanding that chokeholds are not taught to police officers in the state of Michigan and it is very difficult to get a judge to sign off on a no-knock warrant and what if the occupants of the residence are known to be arm and dangerous.

More importantly, I want to focus on qualified immunity.  What is qualified immunity? According to the Congressional Research Service:

“Qualified immunity is a judicially created legal doctrine that shields government officials performing discretionary duties from civil liability in cases involving the deprivation of statutory or constitutional rights. Government officials are entitled to qualified immunity so long as their actions do not violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” The Supreme Court has observed that qualified immunity balances two important interests—“the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” The immunity’s broad protection is intended for “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law” and to give government officials “breathing room” to make reasonable mistakes of fact and law. According to the Supreme Court, the “driving force” behind qualified immunity was to ensure that “insubstantial claims” against government officials were resolved at the outset of the lawsuit. Qualified immunity, when applied, provides immunity not only from civil damages, but from having to defend liability altogether.”

Another definition comes from the Cornel Law School:

“Qualified immunity is a type of legal immunity. “Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan.”

A few things you should know about qualified immunity in Michigan:

  • Police officers are not automatically given qualified immunity.
  • All government employees are covered by qualified immunity including teachers.
  • You must ask a judge for it on a case-by-case basis, it is not automatically given.
  • It only provides immunity against civil suits against a police officer who is engaging in conduct that, at that point in time, he or she believes is reasonable and in compliance with the law.  That means once a controlling court makes a ruling that a certain course of conduct is objectively unreasonable, any officer engaging in the prohibited conduct thereafter will not receive the benefits of qualified immunity.

As put in an NPR article:

“The idea behind the doctrine was to protect police from frivolous lawsuits and allow some "breathing room" for police mistakes that involve split-second judgments in tense and dangerous situations.”

What the people who support the elimination of qualified immunity do not seem to understand or possibly they do but do not care.  The elimination of qualified immunity will stop law enforcement officers from making those crucial, split-second, life or death decisions to stop a lethal threat. Ask yourself how many innocent victims, bystanders and officers will be hurt or killed as a result of their efforts?

Did you know that elected politicians, judges and prosecutors here in Michigan do not have qualified immunity they have absolute immunity? 

Michigan's statute preserving absolute immunity for certain officials provides:

“a judge, a legislator, and the elective or highest appointive executive official of all levels of government are immune from tort liability for injuries to persons or damages to property if he or she is acting within the scope of his or her judicial, legislative, or executive authority." Mich. Comp. Laws § 691.1407(5) (1965). Thus, these officials may not be sued in tort so long as the act occurred within the scope of that official's duty.”

Michigan’s legislative immunity statute is:

“AN ACT to provide immunity from civil action to members of the legislature of this state for acts done pursuant to duty as legislators; to prohibit members of the legislature of this state from being made parties to contested cases or other administrative proceedings for acts done pursuant to duty as legislators; and to provide for certain exemptions from subpoenas.”

I have a bipartisan solution.  I would ask any elected politician or government employee who themselves have qualified or in the case of elected politicians, judges and prosecutors have absolute immunity to consider this offer.  If you want to take qualified immunity away from the police you should be willing to give up your qualified or absolute immunity. 

I think it sounds like a fair trade.

The following video comes from the Michigan FOP and is a short discussion about qualified immunity.

The Live with Renk show airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts call (269) 441-9595

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