Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Police act like laws don’t apply to them because of ‘qualified immunity.’ They’re right.

By Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell

USA Today

On Monday, May 25, Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. While two officers pinned the handcuffed Floyd on a city street, another fended off would-be intervenors, as a fourth knelt on Floyd’s neck until — and well after — he lost consciousness.

But when Floyd’s family goes to court to hold the officers liable for their actions, a judge in Minnesota may very well dismiss their claims. Not because the officers didn’t do anything wrong, but because there isn’t a case from the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court specifically holding that it is unconstitutional for police to kneel on the neck of a handcuffed man for eight minutes until he loses consciousness and then dies.

And such a specific case is what Floyd’s family must provide to overcome a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” that shields police and all other government officials from accountability for their illegal and unconstitutional acts.

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