Ending Qualified Immunity in Virginia is Not Just a Matter of Right and Wrong: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

In response to the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this past summer, there were almost nightly non-violent protests in Richmond. Richmond Police repeatedly retaliated against protestors and journalists. Thanks to the qualified immunity doctrine, those police officers could escape consequences for their violence and brutality towards Richmond residents.   We must end qualified immunity and demand consequences for police violence and misconduct. 

Qualified immunity allows law enforcement officers to violate people’s constitutional rights without consequence because it provides special protection against lawsuits. It is a failed policy that harms us all, especially the Black and Brown members of our community who are more likely to be targeted by law enforcement. It is just plain wrong that police officers can use excessive force and get away with it. We need to come together and demand an end to qualified immunity so police officers are held accountable for their actions. 

Qualified immunity = no trial

That’s right. Police officers can do whatever they want and get away with it. They’ll rarely face any consequences, even if they assault or kill the very people they are supposed to protect and serve. A Black person is killed about every 40 hours by police and  one out of every one thousand Black men can expect to be killed by police violence over the life course.  In the Breonna Taylor murder, only one Louisville police officer was indicted for wanton endangerment, while the two other officers involved in the shooting were not charged at all. 

We are all less safe because of qualified immunity

The idea that armed, often militarized, authority figures know they won’t be held accountable for their actions is terrifying. When the government shields police officers from liability to those they harm, we should all be afraid and outraged.

By ending qualified immunity, police officers will have to think before they act violently against our community members. And when unjust and incomprehensible acts of police violence do occur, victims will be able to pursue some measure of justice, even if it won’t bring their loved one back. 

Police violence disproportionately affects Black and Brown people

Black people account for 13% of the population yet account for up to 30% of people killed by police. They are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by police. That is outrageous and unacceptable.

If we want to make progress towards dismantling white supremacy, ending qualified immunity is an important step. We can’t live in an equitable world if police officers can use excessive force on Black and Brown people without consequences. 

Thankfully, we have the opportunity to put an end to this terrible policy. Email your legislator today and demand that they support ending qualified immunity.