On Tuesday, there was a rare example of a police officer being punished by a jury for murdering an unarmed Black man.
While a single verdict cannot bring about systemic change in a justice system that has devalued black lives for centuries, it can open the door to further change.
When asked what police reforms she would like to see the state legislature act on before adjourning for the year, activist and political strategist L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn NAACP, told Capital Tonight that she would like to see an end to qualified immunity in New York state.
“I think signaling to officers — signaling to police unions and others — that the public will no longer tolerate [officers] hiding behind a shield as a reason to take people’s lives and to abuse people who pay their salaries, that’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to,” Williams told Capital Tonight.
Multiple states are considering ending qualified immunity.
According to Bloomberg News, qualified immunity means that police officers cannot be held liable if they exercise their authority in “good faith” — even if it results in a violation.
On the federal level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280), which would end qualified immunity, passed the House of Representatives in March. Its future in the U.S. Senate is not clear.