In a decisive move, council members acted to remove one strong defense for officers accused of excessive force in New York City. The hope is that without this legal maneuvering (which some call “bulletproof”) officers will think before they act—reducing the number of violent interactions with New Yorkers.
First: a bit of background. Qualified Immunity is a term applied to legal defense created in the 1980s as a way for officers to defend themselves against claims of excessive force and brutality for decisions they made in the heat of a very tense moment. While it was designed with good intentions in mind (to protect NYPD officers from frivolous, excessive, or baseless lawsuits), it has grown to be the de facto response for officers accused of any sort of violence—including clear breaches of standards set to protect citizens from unnecessary physical harm.
Qualified Immunity has been challenged multiple times over the years on the basis that the definition is vague and that it can be used to defend acts that are indeed excessive or unnecessary.
As part of a package of sweeping reforms, the New York City Council has ended the practice of Qualified Immunity—essentially making officers responsible for their actions once again. This is important news for innocent victims of police brutality and excessive force in New York City because it now means that police officers will have to answer for their actions.
One other important change included in this reform package is that the Commissioner will no longer have the power to overturn decisions made by the Civilian Complaint Review Board—essentially vetoing any suggestions for punishment or reprimand.
As important as these changes are, they will not automatically (or instantly) stop instances of police brutality. If you or a loved one has been the victim of such an act, contact an experienced, skilled and expert excessive force lawyer in New York City immediately. Call the attorneys at the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel at 800-734-9338 or 212-385-1122 for your free consultation today.