Federal Judge in Mississippi Calls for Qualified Immunity Reform by Kobee Vance

Published on Friday, August 7, 2020 

A doctrine that protects law enforcement from being sued for wrongdoing is being criticized by a federal judge in Mississippi. Law enforcement leaders and advocates for civil rights are speaking about the future of qualified immunity.

Federal Judge Carlton Reeves is upholding qualified immunity for a Richland police officer who pulled over a black man and held him for two hours while searching his car. Reeves issued an opinion in his ruling that points out the flaws in the doctrine designed to protect law enforcement, calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and redefine what qualified immunity means.

Jarvis Dortch is Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. He echoes the concerns of Judge Reeves, saying qualified immunity often translates to full immunity for police officers who have wronged citizens. He says if officers feel they are fully protected by the doctrine, they would likely be more willing to escalate a situation. "If you're in a situation where you have a bad police officer, and he knows that there's likely no chance of him being held civilly responsible for an act, and a prosecutor may not bring a criminal case against them, he's gonna take things to the max. So there has to be some type of recourse to hold those bad police officers in line."

The full interview can be found HERE