Conservatives Ask Supreme Court to End Qualified Immunity for Cops

By on June 2, 2020

June 2, 2020 occasionally gets it right, although their contributors have an annoying habit of reducing everything to dollars and cents (recently a former climate change-denier announced that he was now convinced by the science, but still had some reservations based on a cost/benefit analysis). C.J. Ciaramella writes that the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has reignited calls for national reforms to policing, including ending qualified immunity, “a legal doctrine that civil liberties groups say has become a shield for grotesque police misconduct.” That issue, he notes, is before the Supreme Court right now in the form of petitions to reconsider a 1970s ruling. Qualified immunity was created by the Supreme Court to shield police and other government officials from liability in civil rights lawsuits when the illegality of their actions was not “clearly established” at the time of the offense. Attorneys representing the families of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have called for rolling back qualified immunity. “The standard is far too high,” attorney Lee Merritt said. “We need legislation that specifically goes after qualified immunity and the additional protections offered to law enforcement officers.” The petitions before the Supreme Court have attracted amicus briefs from groups ranging from the Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “Ending qualified immunity wouldn’t end police brutality,” the author concludes, “but it would put departments and individual officers on notice that they can no longer brazenly harm and kill people without consequences.”

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One Comment

  1. N.O. Tankewe

    June 3, 2020 at 11:48 am

    “Dollars and cents” (i.e., money) is intrinsically meaningless. Rather, money functions as a placeholder for individual labor allowing for easier exchanges in an open market. (If the concept of money did not exist, all exchanges would be reduced to bartering of goods and/or reciprocal labor.)

    Setting aside the impact of money supply intricacies, money conceptually represents the portion of a person’s life put into creating the value which that money represents. (If a person performs $100 of labor or creates $100 worth of goods, the portion of their life spent in that endeavor is now represented by that $100 they received in exchange.)

    Therefore, “dollars and cents” is just a standardized method of discussing the impact of something on people’s lives. At the end of the day, all discussions about public policy are discussions about controlling peoples lives, so the “annoying habit” you identify really just seems to be the rational way to quantify the impact of a policy.

    Additionally, your parenthetical seems to imply you think cost/benefit analyses are unnecessary. A true cost/benefit analysis takes into account future expenses or returns, so it is unclear why you would be opposed to cost/benefit analysis in any circumstances – especially those involving the use of force and compulsion impacting individuals’ lives.

    Based on your example, if a cost/benefit analysis revealed that the expense of stopping climate change required an economic cost that would result in the eventual death of 1 million people in developing countries from starvation or preventable disease, but would only prevent the eventual death of 500,000 people. Then wouldn’t you agree that the cost outweighs the benefit? Without doing a full analysis, how can you know that the selected course of action is doing more good than harm?

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