When police officers commit murder, qualified immunity keeps them from facing consequences.
Yesterday, I joined Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Ed Markey at the Capitol as they reintroduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, which will make it easier to hold police officers accountable and seek justice for civil rights violations.1
Together, we heard directly from families whose loved ones have been stolen from them by police violence. Qualified immunity shields these police officers from liability, allows police brutality to continue unchecked, and denies victims their constitutional and civil rights. It’s an outrageous crisis, rooted in anti-Blackness.
Right now, we have an opportunity to end qualified immunity once and for all — but we need to make sure our elected officials hear from us. Can you sign our petition calling on members of Congress to cosponsor the Ending Qualified Immunity Act?
How did we get here?
152 years ago today, the Civil Rights Act of 1871 became law, allowing lawsuits against state and local officials who participated in or failed to protect Black people from lynchings and other acts of racial violence by groups like the KKK.
But in 1967, the Supreme Court created a loophole to undermine it: qualified immunity. As a result, if you are harmed by police misconduct and want to recover damages, you have to find a case where someone else was harmed by exactly the same conduct — and then, build your case around those facts. Qualified immunity has narrowed the law so much that it makes it almost impossible for victims of police violence to seek justice.2
In other words: qualified immunity gives police officers and state and local officials the green light to violate people's rights with impunity.
The killings of Tyre Nichols, Keenan Anderson, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Isaiah Lewis, Andrew Joseph III, and so many others at the hands of police officers are only a few examples in a long line of incidents of police brutality. We need to take action now before more lives are stolen.
Today’s anniversary provides another opportunity to strengthen civil rights protections — this time by ending qualified immunity. When you sign the petition, you’ll help Rep. Pressley, Sen. Markey, and our movement partners show Congress that there’s a groundswell of support for this crucial legislation.
Add your name to tell members of Congress that they must cosponsor the Ending Qualified Immunity Act and commit to holding police officers — and all state and local officials — accountable for their actions.
As Rep. Pressley said:
“There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability with qualified immunity. We must act with urgency. We must be bold and unapologetic in our pursuit of policy that increases police accountability and addresses the crisis of police brutality plaguing Black and brown communities.”3
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Washington Director, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
- The Root, Exclusive: Rep. Pressley and Sen. Markey Push Bill To End Qualified Immunity
- Equal Justice Initiative, What is qualified immunity?
- Office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Pressley, Markey Reintroduce Legislation to Fully End Qualified Immunity