The city of New York has made history yet again. This week, the nation's largest city has announced that it will no longer provide qualified immunity for government employees, including police officers. For years, qualified immunity legislation has made it incredibly difficult for citizens to file civil lawsuits against government employees while they are performing their duties.
The move to end qualified immunity will have an impact on the New York Police Department. With 36,000 officers, the department is the largest in the country. Ending qualified immunity will allow citizens to file civil lawsuits against officers who brutalize, harass or even kill those they have sworn to protect and serve. New York City Council Spokesperson Corey Johnson believes that ending qualified immunity will go a long way toward combatting systemic oppression within the city.
"Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law," Johnson stated.
"Rooted in our nation's history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades. It should never have been allowed, but I'm proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC."
In spite of the most recent development regarding qualified immunity, Mayor Bill de Blasio assures officers that they will not be held financially responsible if they are sued.
"It makes it easier if someone has a concern to bring a legal action, but it does not put the individual financial penalty on the officer," the mayor said during a recent interview.
"It puts it on the department and the city, and that's what I was comfortable with."
This change comes as the country observes the beginning of the Derek Chauvin trial. Chauvin faces manslaughter and murder charges in connection to the death of George Floyd. However, it is unclear if Minneapolis, Atlanta or any other cities will follow in New York's footsteps.