Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer
Call Today available 24/7

Should the qualified immunity of law enforcement be reduced?


We grant law enforcement great powers to carry out their duties, but in return for that authority, we expect they will set the example for proper adherence to the law. For their actions to be respected, it is essential that law enforcement be accountable to the law.


Many instances recently have highlighted issues involving police use of force both here in Missouri and nationwide. When carrying out an arrest, officers are authorized to use force against noncompliant suspects. Officers are typically immune from being sued for their use of force, unless they violate standards of conduct that have been set by "clearly established law."


What this means, is that in most insistences, unless there is a existing case directly on point or a statute that specifically addresses the circumstances of the arrest, the officers conduct is insulated from examination.

This is known as "qualified immunity." It protects officers from prosecution when they are involved in an arrest. The problem with this degree of qualified immunity is that it is probably far broader than is necessary.

As a means of preventing police misconduct, making officers more accountable for their actions could go a long way. After all, if an ordinary citizen engages in reckless behavior, such as driving while intoxicated, they can be arrested and prosecuted for that recklessness.

The police always argue that they cannot have their actions questioned, as it could inhibit their judgment when making arrests. Given evidence that has emerged in the last few years, the real question is why not?

If law enforcement's actions were always beyond reproach and they were always scrupulous in their conduct that might be a reasonable argument. But as events have shown, there are numerous examples where that conduct is not "beyond question."

Law officers are human. They are subject to the same pressures and biases as everyone else. However, by reason of their unique authority, they must be held to the highest standards of accountability. Without accountability, a culture of lawlessness is fostered within the very institution that we rely on to enforce the law.

Source: abovethelaw.com, "Want to Fight Police Misconduct? Reform Qualified Immunity," Sam Wright, November 2015

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information