New York City to end qualified immunity for NYPD officers

Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law


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Activists Call On NY Governor Cuomo To Resign, And Demand Better Covid Relief For Renters
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 11: NYPD officers stand guard as people gather to protest outside of the office of New York State Assemblymember Carl Heastie on March 11, 2021 in the Baychester neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City. Various organizations gathered at the office of New York State Assemblymember Carl Heastie calling for rent relief and demanding the impeachment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the sexual harassment allegations made by numerous women and the cover-up preventable of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in nursing homes. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) ()
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The New York Police Department may finally be held accountable for its actions.

On Thursday, New York City Council voted on several aspects of police reform, including qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects local and state police from taking responsibility unless they go against an established constitutional right, per the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York City would become the first in the country to end the policy, per The Hill.

“The @NYCCouncil just voted to end qualified immunity for police officers, making NYC the first city in the country to do so. Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law,” tweeted Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

He added, “Rooted in our nation’s history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades,” Johnson continued. “It should never have been allowed, but I’m proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC.”

The City Council also voted to allow the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate officers who have a history of committing acts based on race. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment was voted to be responsible for granting and suspending press passes instead of the NYPD.

In a press release, the Council said its goal is to “increase police accountability.”

“To increase accountability, the Council will vote on a bill that will effectively end qualified immunity as a defense for certain civil rights violations,” per the release. “New York courts have created their own version of the federal doctrine of qualified immunity, which shields police officers who are performing discretionary functions from civil liability.”

It continued, “Together, the State and federal versions of qualified immunity have effectively prevented countless victims of police brutality and their families from obtaining financial damages and holding officers and the cities that employ them accountable.” 

“The Council’s legislation would end qualified immunity for police officers in New York City by creating a new local civil right protecting New Yorkers against unreasonable search and seizures and against excessive force and ban the use of qualified immunity, or substantially equivalent immunities, as a defense,” the statement concluded.

Activists Call On NY Governor Cuomo To Resign, And Demand Better Covid Relief For Renters
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 11: NYPD officers stand guard as people gather to protest outside of the office of New York State Assemblymember Carl Heastie on March 11, 2021 in the Baychester neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City. Various organizations gathered at the office of New York State Assemblymember Carl Heastie calling for rent relief and demanding the impeachment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the sexual harassment allegations made by numerous women and the cover-up preventable of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in nursing homes. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

As reported by theGrio, the federal government is also under investigation.

Seven committees of the United States House of Representatives have launched an investigation into the federal government’s handling and response to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. 

The Judiciary, Oversight, Armed Services, House Administration, Appropriations, Homeland Security, and Intelligence Committees all sent letters to numerous departments requesting documents, communications records, and more between the dates of Dec. 1, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021 in order to gain more clarity into the events that proceeded the Capitol riots. 

The letters were sent to the White House, Justice Department, FBI, National Archives, Pentagon, National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Park Police, Department of the Interior, and the intelligence community. 

“We understand that the Department continues to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in the events on January 6, 2021,” the letter to the Justice Department reads. “We are happy to work with you to ensure that the document requests in this letter do not interfere with ongoing investigations and prosecutions.”

According to Politico, letters were also sent to D.C. police and city government as well as internal congressional agencies including the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms. Both heads of those departments resigned immediately following the attacks. Additionally, Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol were contacted. 

Additional reporting by Biba Adams

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