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Police act like laws don't apply to them because of Qualified Immunity (usatoday.com)
144 points by lpolovets 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 133 comments



They need to double the pay for cops and remove their protections like qualified immunity and the right to fire if they feel threatened. This is the only way we get higher quality cops in the system, we incentivize better people to join with money. Maybe once we have a critical mass of great cops we will need less cops overall.

All of these extra costs associated with overtime etc because of these riots and looting are a direct result of employing shitty cops and completely avoidable. The costs should be taken directly from the pension funds of cops as far as I’m concerned, cities should not bear the costs of overtime because of riots caused by cops killing people.

If we had a critical mass of good cops, we likely would need less overtime overall because the relationship would be better between law enforcement and citizens, especially minorities.


My neighbor is a Sargent in the local PD. Town of 300K. He made $140K last year ($40K of it OT). I think the notion that police are underpaid is not accurate, at least here.


How about lawsuits against the police for bad behavior get paid out of their pension fund, instead of by the taxpayer?


I REALLY like this. Take it out of the pool of pensions for all cops in that department. Maybe they'll start to police themselves a little.


This creates terrible incentives, though. Are you going to proactively help with a civil rights case if it means your pension disappears?

If the person suing "dies in a random armed robbery, so sad", are you going to put maximum effort into investigating their murder?

If you see your coworker destroying evidence of misconduct, do you look the other way because reporting it costs everyone in the department money?


They already don't help with civil rights cases. You can make the rats not have their pensions impacted.


The problem with that is that impacts those who may have no influence on the situation (retirees receiving benefits from the pension plan).

Alternatively, you could require insurance, similar to medical malpractice insurance, that pays out for law enforcement malfeasance. If you’re uninsurable due to your actions (egregious and/or chronic), you’re no longer a cop. The cost to your colleagues (premiums) also goes up because of your behavior.

This takes the financial burden off taxpayers, but still uses economic incentives to encourage the behavior we expect from public servants.


> that impacts those who may have no influence on the situation

It puts a strong incentive on those to take responsibility for their coworkers. To cultivate a culture of integrity, through interactions, through hiring and firing, through setting an example for those you lead. Cops love to talk about having each other's backs; let's see them put those words into action where it counts.


Retirees are not the coworkers, they are already out of the system. You’re shifting risk from current employees to past employees unless you pursue an insurance model, which is intended to do precisely what you describe: pool and price risk, both individually and collectively, among active law enforcement.


I’m okay with retirees suffering if their colleagues are committing murder. They are incentivized to stay connected and provide guidance. At some point someone has to bear the burden. Right now it’s the tax payers, present and future. I would rather it be the police officers past present and future.


Past employees likely worked alongside current employees. They certainly placed the group's culture on its trajectory. They have a leg in the game.


I like your idea of malfeasance insurance.

Premiums could be priced in such a way that it takes into account your personal record, to incentivise your own behaviour; your local/metro PD's record, to incentivise them policing each other; and the state's record in an attempt to address systemic and cultural issues.

Your body cam "malfunctioned"? Congratulations, you just increased the insurance premiums for yourself and all your colleagues.


There's a lot of spread, but yeah: in general police work pays much better than jobs with similar qualifications. They're also almost universally union jobs with excellent job security and public benefits.


It isn't the union that makes the cost of police high, its that they're a select group: physically fit(when they're hired!) yet no criminal or antisocial record(surprisingly rare), and fairly intelligent. Add the expensive training that goes into policing and you get what you pay for.


None of what you said is factually accurate. We don't pay enlistees in the armed services high salaries, and they're usually physically fit. No criminal record? Depends on the department since each sets its own standards. Expensive training? Many departments have academy training that's 8 weeks. If a department uses a longer 6 month training cycle, the average tuition cost is around $7K.


My point is we should pay cops very high salaries, $300k+ to attract those that might go into other professions.


You seem to equate high salary with compassion. What is this notion based on?


It's less about compassion and more about risk. Risk in the sense of the physical danger an officer goes into, but also in the sense that we are removing protections for the officer and holding them to a higher standard.


The most common cause of death for police officers is traffic fatalities. Should we pay highway construction crews 300K+?


That’s a terrible analogy. Obviously they’re more at risk of dying a violent death and that’s why they need to pay more


Not really: they're safer at work than you are at home. Police work is very safe in the USA. But it can be very unpleasant and stressful.

The idea that policing is inherently dangerous is most useful to police when negotiating the next contract.


That is absolutely not true and I don’t know why you think that, other than you’re super sheltered. You have no clue what you’re talking about

Tell me why the Mexican Mafia has no teeth. Enlighten me. Tell me why the Aryan Brotherhood is less dangerous than Kubernetes

It’s not ever worth discussing with y’all, seriously. The privilege here is so insane, you’ve obviously never been anywhere near a ghetto


Your assumption is entirely wrong. I equate high pay to high expectations and higher quality applicants.


Why?


We can assume x% of applicants are actually qualified, instead of "Good enough and we need bodies". If we increase pay, we increase total applicants - which, assuming x stays constant, means we end up with more actually qualified cops.


Why not?


Judging from this thread full of compassionate people, it's pretty clear to me that they should be the ones being cops, and not the current cops.

So we should compensate cops the equivalent salary of a software developer, to create incentives for a career change, and then we can train former cops as software developers. We might end up with more bugs in software, but at least there will not be any police abuse any more.


Like the 'Blackwater' PMC/merc type of guys?


Maybe you are right, but it didn't seem to work in Hong Kong. Here a new recruit is paid nearly 6000 USD / month after tax, double that of a new software engineer. I think you've seen the outcome in the news.


Here's a police recruitment ad (admittedly from more than a decade ago)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_rKA6ROAVk

(Newport Beach Police Department recruiting video, from 2008)

And the problem is just the salary and QI? I don't think so.


Bo-ya! I'm getting pumped to shoot and choke! Stop resisting! "We are a family of officers"


Troopers in certain states already make over 80-100k USD, how much money should it take to hire a decent human being?


They make above average salaries for their education level, their jobs are less dangerous and physically demanding than logging and refinery work, and they do not have to move outside of their communities.

Law enforcement is already a sweet gig.


It comes with additional benefits, as well. Both the official ones, and informal benefits like the ability for oneself and one’s family to get out of traffic tickets. Growing up in a small town I watched one friend (whose father was a cop) get out of tickets regularly in his muscle car. In Arizona, now, members of the ‘police family’ can purchase KOA-789 license plate frames [0] to be afforded the same privilege at scale.

[0] https://azplea.com/plea-news/the-plea-store-is-open-for-busi...


Not the USA, but I had a friend who worked in government but for the police as a developer. To get into the building everyone was issued a police branded lanyard with their ID on it.

He kept getting freebies and discounts on his after work shopping trips and he didn't realise why until he caught his reflection in his mirror and realised his police lanyard was showing, people thought he was a cop!

He also on more than one occassion got pulled over for breath tests and/or speeding only to get flagged on when they saw his lanyard. He reckons he would have looked like a sergeant(? Can't remember exactly) due to his suit and the car he had and the cops wouldn't have wanted to piss off a superior.


Almost like the LEM plates in WA


So much facepalm. I keep forgetting this a WASP hive, and one of the bigger ones actually

Anyway, anyone with half a brain can see that logging risks are accidental and not due to combat and violent confrontation

Unless these are LOTR ents of course


Does it matter where the risk comes from if the differences in risk are still there? A person dying due to falling off a tree is just as dead as one dying from a GSW. Police work is objectively less dangerous than many other much more mundane professions; why does it matter what the source of the danger is if the results are the same?


Of course it matters. There is far more probability that you will be attacked than you have of falling. This is just basic math. Let alone the source of the danger, one of them is far more traumatic.

Let's say you get hurt falling off a tree. You wont suffer violence.

You ever been in a fight? Ever? This is a real question. Answer it please.


The duality of good/bad cops is absolutely a distraction. It would be great to have a society with only good people. No bad people. Is that a solution? Is that even an option? There will always be cops who break the law. Let's start with that. The next question is: what, as a society, do we do with that. Allow cops to commit crimes without repercussions? Well, then we get riots (with good reason). Police unions, attorneys, judges who protect criminal cops - these are the institutions and the people who make the unhealthy situation (aka "bad cops") much worse.


I feel like the privilege to carry a gun and be allowed to use it should be an earned one as well.

Police need to remember they serve us, and by taking the job, they have vowed to put their lives on the line for people. We have no need for cowards who fear for their life and just shoot every possible threat.


In Britain perhaps, but I'm in the USA where anyone is (generally) allowed to carry a gun, especially police. Arguing that police should earn the right to carry a gun (especially when that right is so firmly established) in the USA would be a fool's errand.


I have the right to carry a gun as an individual. I do not have the right to carry a gun while working at my job. You aren't even allowed to have a knife or any other kind of weapon sometimes on the job.

Carrying a gun as a police officer is a privilege because of all the power and authority that comes with it.


Who determines when the right is earned? Civilian review boards have been resisted consistently and internal reviews are heavily biased (as evidenced by such things as rehiring officers who resigned amidst arguably criminal infractions).


Such details are to be determined over discussion from experts yes. I think that cops should undergo on the job training and experience how to handle people, learning to exhaust every non-violent option they have before escalating if needed. There should be at least one or two cops who do have the privilege to carry be around when they are on duty/training, in case of emergency.

Basically I think it would be good if we could separate cops into two classes, armed and unarmed. And to earn the privilege to carry a gun, they need to prove themselves to prioritize deescalation first and foremost. They need to live up to the badge, actually working to serve and protect, not be a coward who needs to pull out a gun to handle an unarmed civilian.


Training currently seems to actively preclude deescalation. This makes me skeptical that anyone currently within the organizations could adequately discern who else within their organization deserves the privilege to be armed.

https://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2016/09/11/Weirton...


You're right to be skeptical, as I am. In any case, since we can't change people, the best we can do is change laws and create systems that disincentivize bad behavior. Starting by taking away Qualified Immunity seems to be a good move.


That's the problem. Police don't serve us. "To protect and serve" is literally just a marketing slogan for the LAPD [0]. Police have no duty to protect the public, according to the Supreme Court [1]. Moreover, the origin of police forces in the US was not to protect the public, but to protect the social order and serve private property interests:

> More than crime, modern police forces in the United States emerged as a response to "disorder." What constitutes social and public order depends largely on who is defining those terms, and in the cities of 19th century America they were defined by the mercantile interests, who through taxes and political influence supported the development of bureaucratic policing institutions. These economic interests had a greater interest in social control than crime control. [2]

--

[0]: http://www.lapdonline.org/history_of_the_lapd/content_basic_...

[1]: https://mises.org/power-market/police-have-no-duty-protect-y...

[2]: https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united...


Is this something that we can't change? If police have no duty to protect the public, we should make it be.

Why do we pay for police with our taxes if they aren't obligated to protect anyone?


Any aspect of the law can be changed by some means. Those means range (non-exhaustively) from simply passing a new law or repealing an old one, to a constitutional amendment, to violent revolution. For the average citizen, those means are roughly the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box.


Maybe raising pay might lower other corruption as well. Georgia (the country) had a police notorious for demanding bribes like other former-USSR nations, but one of the ways their police force was drastically cleaned up and made similar to developed European countries was by boosting basic pay.


What are "higher quality cops"? People with more developed morals and ethics? Money does not necessarily attract more compassionate or kind people. There are plenty of other high paying industries where that's not the case (e.g. banks, real estate).


I think the idea is that low pay actively excludes many high-achiever types who are capable of making much more money in the private sector--without gambling their lives. You cannot recruit the best and brightest unless you can pay a competitive salary.

Paying more doesn't guarantee 'higher quality' but it sure helps.


That is a very unusual speculation. Do lower paid people have less compassion? Do high school teachers have worse understanding and appreciation of ethics and morality than bankers?


I would love to require LEOs to have a 4 year degree, and then attend an accredited police academy. Doctors spend far more time so that they can save lives, and it's only appropriate that police officers who are given the government sanctioned ability to take lives have higher education and training than the current piss poor standards.


The Nikansen center had a nifty idea: constitutional small claims court. If an officer violates your rights, there is a process to make them pay. Not the state, not their department, the officer who wronged you.


Just, Devil's Advocate, but would that encourage rogue police to not leave the victim alive? My understanding was that part of the reason many people get angry when they discover the right to privacy ends when you die, is because it is difficult, (maybe even non-sensical?), to file constitutional claims on behalf of someone who is deceased.

(Are there any attorneys on HN familiar with, for instance, the rights to privacy of the deceased? I'm pretty sure they don't have any.)

I think it's best just to file a civil suit rather than trying to set up a system that the Supremes could very well deem unconstitutional.

What might work is for municipalities to write into police labor agreements that XX% share of any civil judgement precipitated by your actions will be borne by you alone. You're still jointly and separately liable, but the municipality would be able to go after the officer in a separate action.

Something along those lines would accomplish the same thing without bringing constitutional questions into it.


Such a constitutional claims court would certainly be amenable to wrongful death lawsuits by the family, since no more QI is an obvious prerequisite, although one would obviously prefer to see a criminal prosecution in such cases.

American cops already seem to murder with impunity, it’s hard to see how more accountability could possibly make them worse.


San Jose:

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=san-jos...

Doubling the total compensation there would mean about 50% of those people would be making 500k+/year. I don't think they're as underpaid as you think they are. Most of those people on that list already make more than me as a non-FAANG Software Engineer in the region.


Average salary of police in Minneapolis appears to be about $60k. I don't know why you're just picking the highest salaries to talk about. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/police-offi...


Cops are already paid extremely well.



Interesting... It does look like cops's salaries are below average in most states: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Av...


Below median and average in all states, actually. The data here only shows median but I did it for average as well. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23374398


Those numbers are significantly above median and don't include benefits or overtime.


Actually, 0% of them are even at median [1][2]. Here's the first few for comparison:

    State,PDSalary,Median,Difference
    Alabama,"42,383.00","49,396.00","-7,013.00"
    Alaska,"48,418.00","68,400.00","-19,982.00"
    Arizona,"44,987.00","62,311.00","-17,324.00"
    Arkansas,"42,668.00","49,778.00","-7,110.00"
    California,"47,600.00","70,001.00","-22,401.00"
    Colorado,"45,488.00","72,620.00","-27,132.00"
    Connecticut,"48,738.00","73,011.00","-24,273.00"
    Delaware,"45,549.00","65,002.00","-19,453.00"
    Florida,"40,904.00","54,401.00","-13,497.00"
    Georgia,"43,399.00","56,000.00","-12,601.00"
You can find the rest here: https://pastebin.com/wYcLzt6g

[1] https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Po...

[2] https://dqydj.com/average-income-by-state-median-top-percent...


Policemen salaries are already very, very good.

Meanwhile fast food employees on minimum wage get fired for much, much, much, much less.

I think the problem lays elsewhere.


Do you consider "below median in all 50 states" to be "very, very good"?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23374398


I do, also the median is highly skewed in US

Those salaries are also in line with the average salary.

Which is very very good in US, compared to the rest of the World.

For comparison, in Italy a policeman earns on average 60% of the lowest salary you posted.

it is supposed to be a working class job, with good men doing it, not a "professional highly paid killer's job".

p.s.: 50% of Americans earn less, 30% earn much less, than that.

So yeah, it's good, especially for being one of the worst police force in the western World.

Victims of police shootings in US 2019: 1.004

Victims of police shootings in Europe 2019: 60 (including Switzerland, that's never been EU - zero kills - and UK which is not in EU anymore - 3 kills -). But let's round it to one hundred, still an order of magnitude less, in the face of a comparable population size.

If I was the US government I would expect a better job from them, before paying them more.

p.p.s.

To be even more precise:

Total Line of Duty Deaths 2019: 147

Including 24 9/11 related cancer, 22 automobile crashes and 19 heart attacks.

Only 48 died because of a gunfire, so for every cop who died in a gunfire, they killed 21 people.

It looks scary to me, I don't know what do you think about it.

I consider the police in my country (Italy) to be quite brutal, but we had only 5 officers killed in 2019 and 3 people shot dead by the police.


Officers who commit crimes should be tried and held for significantly higher penalties -- multiples in my opinion.

I am opposed to punitive justice vis-a-vis restorative and rehabilitative but this is the system we are in.

A police officer who steals or murders is offending the community on multiple fronts.


Meanwhile in reality, some districts disqualify any applicant that can pass an IQ test: https://abcnews.go.com/US/court-oks-barring-high-iqs-cops/st...



I have been meta-worried about the optics of protests because as a student of history i see echoes of 1964 and 1968, and i am horrified at the idea of a “law and order” second term.

USA Today publishing something like this does a bit to assuage my fears! For the non-American HN audience, USA Today is the anodyne newspaper you get for free at a business hotel chain with your crappy refrigerated muffin or yogurt and instant coffee. It’s about as intentionally bland and inoffensive to everyone newspaper as still exists.

If the message there is this, we might pull it off and meaningfully address something instead of wanking about protestors like we usually do.


I'll raise you one level of meta, and note how surprised I am that the discourse right here on HN, which is normally populated heavily with a... let's say reactionary conservative worldview... has swung hard to the "left" on this issue and others in recent weeks.

Indeed the perception of "mainstream" seems to have shifted away from the messaging the administration wants to present in lots of forums like this.


HN is more libertarian than conservative. The libertarianism often aligns HN with conservatives, but HN and conservatives diverge wildly when it comes to government overreach, whether that be police brutality, cryptography regulation, or the war on drugs.

Note how even within the police brutality issue, HN is focusing on organisational incentives for police recruiting and conduct instead of the more mainstream race angle. HN believes in well-designed systems of incentives. The (ideal of the) free market with appropriate minimal regulations is the dream, which usually sides HN with small-c conservatives on economic issues and even makes HN look reactionary from time to time.

Of course, as you say, the administration is anathema to any group of intellectuals. And I'm sure previous administrations would have spun their cases to be more appealing to HN and similar forums. But I don't think the basic position of HN on police brutality is particularly new or surprising.

Disclaimer: Obviously HN is many people who have many opinions which I wrote as a single entity for convenience.


I, myself, have been wondering where the "free speech" crowd is this week. A common theme I see here is outrage about censorship by private companies. In the last 4 years, we've seen Trump railing against the press, encouraging people to assault members of the press, etc. In the last 4 days, we've seen members of the press getting maimed, falsely arrested, and assaulted by the police. This is overt suppression of the press by the government, plain and simple violations of our constitution (and quite relevant to this story). This kind of treatment of the press is something that's been used as a partial justification to invade other countries in my lifetime -- that it's happening in the US with hardly any commentary by the "free speech" advocates is a great disappointment to me.

But the "reactionary" crowd is still here -- looking at their patterns of posting on [1], it looks almost tailored to get the story flagged (accounts got banned, but that page only lasted on the front page for a few good minutes). The truth of the matter is that folks are uncomfortable discussing race, because our community has internalized a lot racism. Discussing our society's painfully visible race inequity is "flamebait" because racists gonna show up and drag the conversation down.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23355964


They have immunity and no requirement to protect

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia


Which kinda seems like a bad deal for society. No guarantee of (an attempt at) protection, but immunity for those who abuse the power of the state.


It's sad to see how little progress has been made on concrete reforms that would meaningfully reduce these problems. Curtailing qualified immunity, and limiting the power of police unions to protect "bad apples" is something with bi-partisan ideological support.

https://www.heritage.org/courts/commentary/less-government-m...

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/reforming-poli...

https://www.cato.org/blog/why-qualified-immunity

You'd think reforms to qualified immunity--which everyone from the ACLU to Heritage to Cato agrees on--would be on the fast track to legislation, at least in left-leaning states. There is no reason a state like California, where politicians habitually genuflect to social justice, couldn't pass legislation to create causes of action against police officers that aren't subject to the federal constitution's qualified immunity doctrine. None at all. Instead, for some reason the debate is now about whether rioting and property destruction is an acceptable response to police brutality--an extreme position that is not going to carry the day with anyone but a tiny minority.


Police unions are the real problem in this situation. There will always be criminal cops. As long as they are protected by corrupt and powerful unions - they will have very little incentive to change.


I don't know that the unions are the problem per se. They're just the face of the advocacy for the interests of criminal cops (which isn't surprising: it's literally their job to advocate for their members).

In fact when this gets polled, police rank and file are absolutely behind their "bad apple" compatriots. There is deep mistrust of public oversight within the law enforcement community as a whole, and that doesn't have to do with their labor organization.


From my (limited) understanding of the role of police unions in cases like that, they basically threaten local governments and demand no prosecution for their members. They hold the keys to more public oversight and accountability.


Is QI something easily amenable via legislation? I was under the impression that the Supreme Court created the doctrine based on the constitution, which I thought means it’ll be hard to legislate.


The qualified immunity doctrine is a judge-created limitation on claims based on violations of federal constitutional rights. It doesn't preclude legislatures from creating causes of action under state law to allow officers to be held accountable.


I'd like to point out that even when police officers have their hearts in the right places, they don't do themselves any favors by going after those in blue who abuse their power. We have heard countless stories of police officers that crossed the blue line to do what was right, only for extreme retaliation to occur, to the point of getting fired, harassed, assaulted, stalked, and even murdered.

And the idea that people can just join the police force with good intentions is fatally flawed. The police is a hierarchical organization with a culture that is characterized by its top down command structure. In order to have any influence at all, you have to be at the top...and by the time you get to the top, you're assimilated into the culture. It is self perpetuating.

Absent of firing all the police and starting over from scratch (an option I'm oddly not opposed to), I think the only way we can accomplish this is with strong carrots and even stronger sticks. Taking away qualified immunity is just the first step.

We have laws that punish doctors and lawyers and even commercial truck drivers more harshly when they commit crimes that directly relate to their jobs, under the premise that they know better and should be held to a higher standard. No such laws exist for police, but they should.

I think most importantly though is that we need to protect those who break ranks for good reasons. Retaliation, in any way, shape, or form, by police officers for enforcing the law against another police officer, should be a Class A felony with sentencing in the double digits. And we shouldn't just stop there. Good cops that enforce the law against bad cops deserve our protection, much like how we go out of our way to protect witnesses and whistle-blowers.

And not only that, but there should never be investigations into criminal misconduct by a police officer by other police officers of the same jurisdiction. Once it crosses the line from department policy violation to criminal violation, that investigation should be handed over to a superceding jurisdiction, and any local jurisdiction on the matter should be voided.


> firing all the police and starting over from scratch

I honestly think this might be the only true solution. We have to have police. But right now we have such an entrenched, caustic, tribal, "swamp" of a culture that I don't see how it could possibly be changed without first draining it completely.


Ten years ago the idea “what if we replaced all cops” would be unthinkable nonsense; literally outside the Overton window.

Now... it’s actually kind of appealing.


In other words, police act like laws don't apply to them because they don't (not in some "that's what it feels like" sense, but as a matter of precedent and court finding). See starting at 3 here https://threader.app/thread/1266053291684827138 , and the linked https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-poli... .


I don't want to excuse the abuses but I think in a sense the cops are the victims of bad politics and management. Obviously shooting innocent people is not acceptable but on the other hand they are being thrown into a bad situation and don't get much help coping with that. I know a guy (very nice guy) who started as a cop two years ago. Since then he had to shoot somebody in the leg who attacked him with a knife, had to deal with a teenage girl hanging herself, lots of domestic violence and a lot of other really bad stuff that's very tough to deal with. They don't get any psychological counseling so a lot of the old-timers are either alcoholics or have some other kind of psychological damage.

In the end politics needs to have the courage to address the underfunding and also address the training and management situation. They don't want to do either because it may cost money so the bad situation just keeps going. Reminds me of the healthcare situation where even the most blatant problems go unaddressed because it's more important to do partisan fighting instead of addressing issues. I think it's well understood that the drug laws are damaging so it would be a good start to clean them up.


Call your representatives. Demand qualified immunity (and civil forfeiture) be eliminated.


It cannot be eliminated by legislation. It arises from a SCOTUS decision, and can only be undone by them (at least in the broadest sense).


This is not true. Only their interpretation of the Constitution cannot be overridden by legislation (requires a constitutional amendment). Here, where the Court is interpreting a federal statue, namely 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Congress could in fact change the law to make it clear that the qualified immunity defense the Court made up does not apply.


This doesn't appear necessarily correct to me. The statute provides the basis for a suit based on deprivation of rights. SCOTUS determined that (potentially independently of any language in the statute) QI exists for various classes of government officials.

Now, if SCOTUS's QI theory is based on the text of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 then certainly the legislature could change/update/replace the statute with something worded differently.

But it isn't clear that their decision is based on that (or any other) statute at all. Some interpretations of Harlow vs Fitzgerald seem to point more to the idea that SCOTUS decided that this immunity was derived from other aspects of the totality of the constitution, USC and precedent. Others see it more the way you suggest, which is that SCOTUS concluded that QI existed based on specific statutory language.

Apparently, we don't have to wait that long to find out, since they will be reconsidering it starting tomorrow.


Rep. Justin Amash, at least, appears to agree with you (and has proposed an act to make it clear that QI is not a defense). So for now, pending further SCOTUS decisions, I concede that I'm wrong, and that it would be possible to change this via legislation. I apologize for any confusion.


That isn't how it works. Of course it can be done through legislation. That is how the branches balance each other.


The Supreme Court has ruled on this subject. The Congress can pass a new law but it is unlikely to stand up in court. The existing case law on this is pretty well established.

We need a constitutional amendment.


That's not how this works. Laws can absolutely be changed; in the case of a SCOTUS decision, that's what constitutional amendments are for.


Only required if SCOTUS’s opinion is on a constitutional matter, like 1st amendment rights.

If SCOTUS writes an opinion on a law like DMCA and then the legislature repeals the DMCA, it doesn’t much matter how SCOTUS interprets it because it’s not a law anymore.


As you may have noticed, whether by design or social context or both, constitutional amendments are essentially impossible to pass.


What I've noticed is that we have nearly thirty of them, and two of them were passed in my lifetime.


The timeline looks like this:

http://www.paufler.net/brettrants/161_amendments_graphs.html

I wouldn't consider that indicative of the ease of passing an amendment. Perhaps you do. It appears to require an increasingly-hard-to-get combination of (1) widespread agreement that a problem requiring an amendment exists and (2) widespread agreement on what the nature of the amendment should be.


“Call your representative” is vacuous advice. It will achieve nothing. It’s going straight to /dev/null.


Citizens should be able to pull some of their tax money away from ineffective police departments to hold them accountable. There could be competing police forces, all run by the government, and the citizens should get to fund the ones they prefer, not unlike charter schools allow parents to fund the schools they prefer, and food stamps allow the poor to buy the food they want from the grocery store they prefer.


It rankles me to no end knowing that I’m on the hook financially whenever cops misbehave.

They should have to pay settlements personally.


It is extremely hard to believe that we live in a lawful society if the keepers of the peace are considered to be above the law.


Isn't qualified immunity only for civil suits? Police can still be criminally charged.

Perhaps police aren't charged criminally when they should be, but that doesn't seem to be because of qualified immunity.

Suing over murder is not a great recourse, anyway. You still lost your loved one, and the individual you sue probably can't pay you much.


> Perhaps police aren't charged criminally when they should be, but that doesn't seem to be because of qualified immunity.

But qualified immunity prevents those who care to take recourse from acting to take recourse. That's the issue. The police virtually never bring criminal charges against their own.

> and the individual you sue probably can't pay you much

I'm sure the police department can. They sure can afford military-grade gear.


I don’t want the department to pay; that’s our tax money. If I run over someone with my car and I’m found criminally liable, then I have to pay. Why should the state step in to pay when cops misbehave?


"But qualified immunity prevents those who care to take recourse from acting to take recourse."

If a cop murders someone, we need a way to get them into prison, not a way to sue them (or sue the taxpayers).

More bodycams, more dash cams. Maybe every arrest video should be reviewed by an independent organization even without a complaint. Usually bad behavior starts with little things, and its easier to correct before it escalates.


One thing I don't understand is why the taxpayer ends up paying settlements. If I sue the individual, why does his employer (and therefore the employer's funders) pay the settlement?


Does anyone know some examples of organizations that work to change laws like this? Or organizations that work with victims of police brutality to hold perpetrators accountable?

I would like to support changing some of the things about our society that contribute to overreach by police but it is hard to know where to begin


It would probably need support from police/ex-police to be truly effective. One of my in-laws was with the highway patrol for over a decade and it's interesting how it changes someone when they're around crime all the time. It does something to the human psyche to be around violent or dishonest people all the time so it might be very difficult to find cops/excops to help reforms because most have probably had their outlook of people/society permanently changed, often for the worse.


Right, this is why it's important for police to have other duties in their communities in addition to fighting crime.


TBF, Plato's Republic explicitly states the guardians of the Polis were not subject to the same laws, and refers to the idea that there is no hierarchy as the "noble lie."


The "noble lie" was not that there's no hierarchy. It was that there was an oracle that the city would be overthrown if the lowest rank became the guardian or leaders of the city. This would lead the people to always let a person's rank be formed appropriately. Higher rank parents would let their offspring be lower rank, and lower rank parents would push their offspring to the higher rank, as would the rest of society. Because they would all fear the city being overthrown.


And here we are.



Related, from earlier today:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23371537


Would military like training help? Drilling events, having high quality roleplay? It's not like Nasa flies to space without drilling everything.


Help with what? Keep cops in shape? Absolutely. Make cops more compassionate? Possibly not (not sure). Would it help to hold criminal cops accountable? No relation to military training.


I guess more towards predictable and within expectations.


I don't know about the "because" part, I think the job attracts tough guys and racists (not saying all cops are bad)


It's entirely naïve to believe that an apartheid for the primary benefit of the wealthy can or will ever be reformed from within. Citizens' United, "campaign finance reform", lack of action on climate change, and many, many other examples of the corrupting influences of the very rich will preclude significant change because the status quo is how the aristocracy prefers it. Voting/media-driven popularity contests masquerading as elections without exit polls, protests, petitions, and nibbling around the periphery on small issues like QI or as Rachel Maddow doesn't do a damn bit of good because the bigger problem is who's in control: it's not We The People.

If a citizen really wanted change, voting, running for office, looting, and peaceful protests with prayer sticks aren't the answer. There is no reforming a system that has no mechanism for reforming pervasive corruption within and above it! Therefore and unfortunately, the rich have left us with no other answer other than focused, strategic rebellion, and overthrow of their greedy, vampiric apartheid that too many people are blind to because it benefits them. Queue predictable pearl-clutchers and naysayers


Oh, so Trump's supreme court gets to decide this? Yeah, in suuuuuuper confident this will go well.


Why do I get the feeling you're not super familiar with the Supreme Court?


Maybe qualified immunity needs to be reduced in scope, but what is the alternative? Without something like it, police might otherwise be held liable for something like having to taser a violent person, only they hit their head on the way down?


In the current climate in the US, there will be lawyers eager to find any possible grounds to file a lawsuit for stupendous amounts because the cop looked at someone wrong, and hurt their fragile self-esteem (I exaggerate, slightly). That's probably going to make an environment where police cannot operate effectively. Yes, they'd be careful not to step across the line. But they'd have to give no grounds for a lawyer looking for a payday to even be able to claim that they had stepped across the line.

The current abuses are horrible. But cops fearful of their own shadow is not a better outcome for society.


You can already do that right now. You can already file a lawsuit for a stupendous amounts because the cop looked at you the wrong way. Would the cop get prosecuted? No. Losing qualified immunity doesn't mean that cops will automatically be at fault for anything you desire. The laws would still exist.


Yes, that's how responsibility works. Doesn't mean that cops will be sentenced and go to jail for every person they tased, just means they won't be immune by default.


How would that differ, functionally, from what we have now? Clearly a prosecutor can already bring charges when a cop steps over the line. Assuming that "line" wouldn't change, how does that differ from qualified immunity? I'm honestly asking here, because I'm not a huge fan of QI but I don't see a good alternative.


If I tasered a person, I'd have to justify it. I'd like the police to be forced to do the same.


If your are angry about injustice it is wrong to be angry against police and courts enforcing wrong laws.

Demand action from politicians to change those laws (e.g. remove qualified immunity, etc). While protesting is important, engaging with your representatives and VOTING is very important too.


Gerrymandering, mass surveillance, oligarch-owned news media that works in conjunction with the state. VOTING doesn't do much. No confidence. They are dismissed.




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