The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 11, 2020 1:00 am

Banks' police bill intends to make qualified immunity law

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks has introduced legislation that would turn the judicial doctrine of qualified immunity for police into a federal law.

Banks, R-3rd, said in a news release that his Qualified Immunity Act would codify Supreme Court precedent that shields law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits unless they have violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

The House Democratic majority voted 236-181 in late June in favor of a police reform bill that would abolish the qualified immunity doctrine. Banks and all but three Republican lawmakers voted in opposition to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, named after the Black man who died May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.

The Republican-run Senate has not considered the legislation.

“Ending qualified immunity is another way of saying abolish the police,” Banks said Friday in a statement. “No doubt criminals would love the chance to open endless frivolous lawsuits against the officers who put them behind bars. I've heard from many that work in law enforcement that if we strip them of qualified immunity, they'd be forced to quit, because they couldn't afford to serve any longer.”

Banks said his legislation has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana State Police Alliance, the National Center for Police Defense and the Police Officers Defense Coalition.

Chip Coldiron, Banks' Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 election, states on his campaign website that he supports ending qualified immunity.

“In its current practice, qualified immunity shields government officials, including police, from public accountability in even the most egregious cases of negligence or abuse of power, and reform is necessary,” Coldiron said Monday in a statement to The Journal Gazette.

“Good police officers, and good police work, are already protected by our Constitution,” he said.

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