GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In a letter to congressional colleagues, Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3) said he'll be introducing a bill to do away with the law that protects police officers from being sued while doing their jobs.
Sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Amash said it was time for congress to open-up individual officers to legal punishments who use brutal tactics on suspects.
“This pattern continues because police are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from consequences -- that must change so that these incidents of brutality stop happening" the Congressman wrote.
“He's going to try to push it through the Judiciary Committee but I have my doubts as to whether that will ever happen,” Professor Peter Henning said. Henning teaches criminal law and professional responsibility at Wayne State University.
“Immunity has been part of the system since the mid-1960s,” he said. “Getting rid of absolute immunity for police officers is going to be very, very, very difficult.”
And that difficulty Henning says could shield the former officers in Minneapolis, including former officer Derek Chauvin who was charge with second-degree murder after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes.
“We're going to see that police officer, being charged with a crime,” Henning said. “But can he interpose absolute immunity? The answer to that question may well be yes.”
Amash’s, a former Republican, bill already has support from some of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) and Michigan delegation colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).
The bill also has a senatorial counterpart introduced by Sen. Corey Booker although the President has signaled in the past he would not sign a bill which would erode protection for officers in the line of duty.