Qualified Immunity Issue Blocks Senate Agreement on Police Reform

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For months, bipartisan negotiators have been working on a significant overhaul of U.S. policing after years of brutality and bias against Black Americans. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), their chamber’s lead negotiators alongside Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and a small group of others, signaled Thursday that they’re still a long way from an agreement with only two weeks left in the Senate’s session, says Politico. Even if both parties can reach a deal, lawmakers will still have to sell it to multiple groups with interests in law enforcement policymaking.

The draft legislation addresses the issue of qualified immunity, which shields officers from civil liability for misconduct on the job. The draft says, “the public employer of that officer shall be liable to the party injured for the conduct of the officer in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.” While senators have said that any agreement between Booker and Scott would earn broad support, Republicans made known that their buy-in depends in large part on where the qualified immunity debate lands. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that many of his Republican colleagues are concerned this would leave officers too legally exposed.

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