Policing Legislation Talks Collapse

Talks in Congress regarding a bipartisan bill on policing have collapsed, Alan Fram reports for AP.

Talks had moved slowly for months, and it had became clear over the summer that the chances for a breakthrough were all but hopeless. [N.J. Sen. Cory] Booker said he’d told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the lead Republican negotiator, of his decision earlier Wednesday.

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Scott said he was “deeply disappointed” that Democrats had walked away from accords reached on several issues, including banning chokeholds, curbing the transfer of military equipment to police and increased funds for mental health programs, which address problems that often lead to encounters with law enforcement officers.

“Crime will continue to increase while safety decreases, and more officers are going to walk away from the force because my negotiating partners walked away from the table,” Scott said in a statement.

Democrats rejected a deal “because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement,” said Scott, using a catchphrase of progressives from which most Democrats in Congress have disassociated themselves. “Once again, the Left let their misguided idea of perfect be the enemy of good, impactful legislation.”

Among the misguided of the Left’s ideas of “perfect” is the abolition of qualified immunity. People whose jobs necessarily require making tough choices can’t do those jobs if they are constantly peppered with lawsuits by everyone who disagrees with their choices. Judges are cloaked with absolute immunity, not merely qualified, and nobody is arguing to abolish that.

It is no answer to say “if police officers respect people’s rights, they will win the suits.” That is inadequate for two reasons.

First, the boundaries of rights are often fuzzy, and sometimes it would be dereliction of duty not to do an act that someone will later claim was a violation of his rights. The dilemma between violation and dereliction may well be resolved in different ways by different judges. Doing your duty versus committing a violation can very well come down to a crap shoot of which judge is assigned to the case.

Second, being a defendant in a lawsuit is a grave harm to a person even if he ultimately prevails. Litigation is a soul-draining experience that pretty much ruins your life for its duration. If a job involves being personally sued repeatedly, a great many people will decide to do something else for a living, and we have too few good people in policing already.

Qualified immunity for the police officers individually must be a line in the sand. Any bill abolishing it must be fought tooth and nail, and there can be no compromise if the Democrats insist on putting good, conscientious police officers through hell.

The obvious compromise is to provide a civil remedy against the employer, i.e. the city or county government. Sen. Scott has offered that, but the other side shows no interest.

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