LD Nov/Dec ’16 -Limit Qualified Immunity

Resolved: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

I accidentally stumbled across the following story, which turns out to be very enlightening on this topic. It’s a radio interview (via Boston’s WBUR) with Terrence Cunningham. Besides being a police chief, he just ended a term as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He’s unexpectedly candid for a person in his position.

Police, Bias And Communities Of Color

What to listen for:

At about the 10:00 mark, the statistic comes out that there are 11-12 million arrests each year. As an argument for QI, Cunningham points out that an officer has to bat 1.000 in those interactions – and that there’s a lot that can go wrong.

At about the 12:40 mark, the question of race as a predictor for police shootings is mentioned – a major point against QI.

Starting around the 17:00 mark is a discussion of police standards of behavior, as determined by the Supreme Court, and when specific behavior should get QI (though he doesn’t use the specific term) or be prosecuted.

Do listen to the whole interview – around 29 minutes – if at all possible.

Race and socioeconomic (SES) status are often linked in America. To that extent, a program that may have originally been based around SES may have morphed into something that increased police-minority interactions – the Broken Windows philosophy. For a history of that program, and its connection to police misconduct, this story via NPR:

How ‘Broken Windows’ Helped Shape Tensions Between Police And Communities

Good news, comparatively – it’s only 7 minutes long.

Other links: FBI 2012

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin – Qualified Immunity

This isn’t a new issue; also from the FBI, late 1970s:

Qualified Immunity of Law Enforcement Officers

An actual legal case and decision on a QI issue; note the cases cited in it for further research:

Raub v Campbell

QI from a prosecutor’s standpoint:

Qualified Immunity: Striking the Balance for Prosecutor Accountability

Final thought: I judged four LD rounds on this topic last week. I was struck by the thought that, in terms of privilege, some people have even more privilege than police. For our LD purposes, it’s judges and their complete immunity (compared to police officers). What ends up happening, in practical terms, is that while the Neg is correct that cases involving police abuse can go to trial, that trial will be before someone with even more immunity than the police officers have, and that police officers defending themselves often have extensive (and often governmental) resources defending their actions. With all due respect to the rights of victims of police misconduct to bring legal action, what chance do they really have against officers with limited immunity (and considerable legal support) arguing that privilege before judges with complete immunity?


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