Qualified Immunity: Rectifying a Detrimental Doctrine

Nyla Knox

On average, on-duty police officers shoot and kill one thousand individuals in the United States each year. One in every one-thousand black men will be killed by law enforcement in their lifetime. In nearly every instance, though, courts find that the officers responsible were legally justified in their actions. But how do a majority of officers escape accountability for their egregious use of excessive force? The answer arises from the doctrine of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity provides officers with civil immunity in an attempt to reduce frivolous suits and protect officers from the burdens of litigation. However, rather than fulfilling its purpose, qualified immunity has robbed victims of meaningful opportunities to seek justice when officers violate their constitutional rights. In turn, officers are not held accountable for grievous acts, further distorting public trust in law enforcement and the justice system as a whole.

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