After the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, there has been an increased awareness of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. On February 24, 2021, Democrats in the House of Representatives reintroduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. On March 3, 2021, the House voted to pass the Act. This Act sets to hold police officers accountable for misconduct and remove some of the qualified immunity protections afforded to law enforcement officers in excessive and deadly force cases.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows for citizens to bring a civil action against police officers for “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws..” Ultimately, 1983 actions allow victims of police brutality to hold officers accountable and seek relief for damage caused by their misconduct. However, qualified immunity, as it stands, acts as a barrier between police misconduct and accountability, and therefore, too often renders 42 U.S.C. § 1983 an unattainable threshold in the pursuit of justice.
Deadly force against citizens is oftentimes determined to be “reasonable” under the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time he/she rendered deadly force. Additionally, if force was applied in good faith, officers can be protected under qualified immunity. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Section 102, seeks to amend 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to include the following language:
“It shall not be a defense or immunity in any action brought under this section against a local law enforcement officer… that the defendant was acting in good faith, or that the defendant believed, reasonably or otherwise, that his or her conduct was lawful at the time when the conduct was committed.”
This proposed added provision to § 1983 would eliminate some of the immunity protections currently shielding officers. The goal is to withdraw the sense of security that officers have in exercising whatever force they deem appropriate, regardless of whether such force is unconstitutional. Eliminating the “good faith” and “reasonable belief” defenses from qualified immunity expands misconduct that is subject to 1983 actions.
The Act also proposes to prohibit the use of deadly force unless:
- The form of deadly force is a last resort to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or another person;
- The use of deadly force does not create a substantial injury to another person; and
- Other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.
Even though the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 has not been passed into law as of yet, there are still limited protections and remedies afforded to citizens whose Constitutional rights have been violated at the hands of law enforcement officers. The long-established civil rights of citizens should be protected at all costs.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of police brutality, excessive or deadly force, please contact our office. We are dedicated to ensuring that law enforcement officers and other government actors are held accountable for the unnecessary and unlawful harm they cause.