New York Passes Qualified Immunity Law
A recent local law passed by the New York City Council causes great concern among police officers, community leaders, and local officials.
The introduction of legislation #2220-a-21 passed on March 25, 2021, is currently awaiting the Mayor’s signature, who undoubtedly will sign it. The actions of the current mayoral administration have continuously harmed the citizens of New York City by placing law and order in the back seat. Mayor DeBlasio also aims to cut funding by a billion dollars from the NYPD. However, recent Mayoral candidates have refrained from supporting this defunding of the police movement. Despite the tug of war, Mayor DeBlasio will allow the creation of a new precinct, along with the construction of a community center. Many have said that this change was due to a Federal COVID Relief Fund of 100 billion dollars for New York.
Despite finding a common ground to end the recent overall spikes in crime rates, this controversial law allows individuals to sue any police officer directly for damages. This eliminates police officers the ability to defend themselves and declaring a Qualified Immunity defense. Qualified Immunity applies when an officer conducts an unreasonable search and or during the use of excessive force. During the case of excessive force, the Qualified Immunity defense is justified, however should police officers acting in good faith have the constant fear of being sued?
Most concerning, is when suspects do not possess anything illegal they can walk away and also sue the police officer. This does not determine that they are not criminals, but this legislation also allows suspects the chance to get away with a number of crimes (including murder, rape, or theft). The determination of whether an unreasonable search or excessive force was performed is made by the city, Judge, or a jury. In either case, complying with such job requirements as to keeping our cities safe, can take a terrible turn for any officer.
Qualified Immunity is a judicially created defense that protects all government employees, not just police officers from liability. These actions may result in the filing of monetary damages and are in addition to federal and state laws. In addition, no physical injury needs to take place and the proof of a violation is enough to carry a lawsuit against an officer. If the plaintiff wins, the city and the official must, pay the damages and legal fees to the attorney. This piece of legislation clearly eliminates “Qualified Immunity” for all parties. In the best effort to solve the current crisis happening in our city streets, the mayor’s budget proposal is as follows:
- $112 million to expand a mental health crisis response program
- $27 million for a violence interrupter program a youth mentorship for at risk teenagers
- $3 million for community-based hate crimes.
These investments will aim to ease police interactions that have led to alterations.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association’s Role
President Ed Mullins, of the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), is at the forefront of the recent attacks on the “defund the police movement”. Ed Mullins is the host of “To the Point” and President of the 13,000-member association. The SBA has served in the communicates in many ways, such as the Widows and Children Fund, SBA Scholarship Fund, and Operation Blue Christmas.
According to their website, the roots of the SBA run as deep as those of the City of New York itself. In 1899, just one year following the consolidation of the city’s five boroughs and the formation of the NYPD, the Department’s supervisory officers formed a fraternal organization known as the Police Sergeants Endowment and Benevolent Association. The role of the NYPD sergeant today is as integral to public safety as it was back in 1907, when Sgt. Richard E. Enright was elected the first SBA president, before going on to become the New York City police commissioner.
“They must match their wits against the cunning of the crook as well as the smug hypocrisy of pious violators of the law,” he said, as reported in the New York Times, “They must face the clamor of the mob and the misunderstanding of the press. To do it all, [these officers] must have something within them that money cannot buy, that gives them courage not to falter even when the black finger of falsehood and malice is pointed at them. There is nothing of the mollycoddle about the New York Police Sergeant.”
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, Lloyd Sealy was the first African American precinct commander, as well as the assassinations of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Civil Rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, which created tremendous social unrest. The SBA assisted in one of law enforcement’s greatest innovations, the 911 system. Implemented in New York in 1969, since then it has been responsible for saving “all lives” not looking at status, color, creed, or lifestyles.
Looking full steam ahead, one can only ponder as to how will we turn our present unstable situations around. One can say that it will have to start with a common ground approach, to settle the differences of opinions, looking at our stark reality and realizing that good reform from all sides must be present. This is where we must look beyond our differences, seeing our humanity and finding the common good because at the end of the day, the only war to fight, is the war on evil and those who promote it.
It is time to begin the conversation between those who stand for racial justice and those who stand for good police reform, because neither can exist without the other. Law and Order is the complementation of justice and equality for all, and first and foremost are the men and women who daily put their lives on the line.