Justice in Policing Means Ending Qualified Immunity

9 mins read

Tyre Nichols should still be alive. So should George Floyd, Dante Wright, Philando Castile, Breona Taylor, Dalton Sterling, Freddie Gray, and thousands more Black people killed by police. We have seen horrific videos and other evidence that their deaths were entirely preventable or even intentional. Police killed 1,192 people in 2022. Black people constituted 26 percent of those killed by police in 2022 despite being only 13 percent of the population. After the video footage of the ruthless brutality and neglect that led to the death of Tyre Nichols was released, protest signs appropriately read “End Police Terror.”

Police departments have spent thousands of hours in training regarding racial bias and de-escalation techniques. Cities have spent billions of dollars over the past ten years on these “reforms” and on police misconduct settlements. And yet police continue to murder unarmed Black people with impunity. Individual cops are protected from personal accountability through a legal doctrine called qualified immunity, which protects government officials from lawsuits that allege the individual violated a plaintiff’s rights. As it relates to police, it protects officers’ personal assets — including their pensions — from being lost in lawsuits. Instead, lawsuits related to the violation of rights by police officers usually name their municipalities as defendants, so it’s taxpayers who bear the cost of civil rights and wrongful death judgements.

Democratic politicians are calling for a reintroduction of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (GFJPA). In the previous Congress the Democratic majority in the House passed this bill in 2021 with zero Republican votes. It was stalled in the Senate after objections to its most potent component: ending qualified immunity. Even after Democrats offered to remove that component in order to get other reforms, Senate Republicans kept the GFJPA from being brought up for a vote on the floor.

Qualified immunity has been the major impediment to achieving meaningful accountability for,  and deterrence of, police brutality for decades. In 2021 we prepared an Explainer about the effort to pass the GFJPA and address the issue of qualified immunity at the federal level (which is unlikely, with a House controlled by a MAGA-dominated Republican Party). It is important that we educate ourselves, our communities, and our Members of Congress on the critical issues of racially biased police violence and qualified immunity. We can also join grassroots groups like Americans Against Qualified Immunity (AAQI) to give state legislators the courage to remove police impunity by ending qualified immunity at the state and local level.

Read more on our blog post.

Update on Ending Biased Traffic Stops in SF

If you remember our ask that our members join our friends at Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community to call in to the January 11 meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission to end pretextual police traffic stops, this was a success! The Commission voted 4–2 to ban this practice for nine specific low-level offenses, such as failure to display registration tags.

The change isn’t in effect yet; like every change to San Francisco policing policy, this will now get dragged into the “meet and confer” process between the City and the police union. But the Police Commission has listened to the community and done its part to end biased traffic stops in the City and County of San Francisco.

Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community is also holding a vigil today at City Hall, Wednesday, at 11 AM, to honor Tyre Nichols and other victims of police violence.

Student Loan Update

Last year, we told you that the pause on student loan payments would end, and payments would resume, on January 23 of this year. We have an update on that.

The Biden Administration has extended the pause again, this time to no later than June 30. If the litigation over the Biden Administration’s attempt to forgive federal student loans is resolved before then, then payments will resume sixty days after that resolution; otherwise, payments will resume sixty days after that June 30 date.

Gearing up for electoral victories in 2023 and 2024

Elections aren’t just every two years—there are elections every year, throughout the year, as elected officials (including some judges) retire or pass away. These special elections are often low in turnout, but high in impact. We can help by letting voters know that they have a special election coming up and their vote is needed.

We have many critical local and special elections coming up this year, and we invite you to phone bank, text bank, send postcards, and volunteer. 

Ready to help?

The Blue Voter Guide helped voters in nine states, including California, choose blue candidates last year. They’re looking to expand their endorsements to more states. To volunteer, check out their questionnaire.

The next important election is for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Securing a pro-reproductive-rights judge on this seat will help save abortion rights in Wisconsin. The nonpartisan primary is on February 21 and the special election is on April 4. Both of these elections are critical. Working Families Power and Women’s March are holding voter outreach events that you can do from home to GOTV. Check out their events on mobilize.

If you’re interested in participating in activities like drafting letters to our Members of Congress and developing our strategy for influencing them, the Indivisible SF Federal Working Group is where it happens.

Indivisible SF Federal Working Group: Thursday, Feb. 9, 7:30–9 PM. Planning meeting where we discuss strategy to influence our Members of Congress and the Biden administration to enact a progressive agenda. Meeting starts promptly at 7:30 PM. All are welcome. Register here!

TODAY: Kneeling for Tyre: Wednesday Feb. 1, 11 AM–1 PM. Join Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community at City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place) to kneel in honor of Tyre Nichols and demand justice and an end to low-level traffic stops by racist police. RSVP on Facebook.

Text Party for Wisconsin Supreme Court: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 3–5 PM PST. Text bank to make sure voters in Wisconsin know about the upcoming WI Supreme Court primary election, and where the candidates stand on abortion rights! RSVP on Mobilize.

Friend to Friend Postcards for Wisconsin Supreme Court: Thursday, Feb. 9, 11 am–12pm PST. Join Working Families Power to build your list of Wisconsin contacts — friends, family, neighbors, anyone you know, and let them know about the upcoming WI Supreme Court primary election. RSVP on Mobilize.

About this week’s photo

If you’ve seen our newsletter posts on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed that we include a photo or graphic with each issue.

Today’s image is a screengrab of an application mapping police violence in the US in 2022 via https://mappingpoliceviolence.us/.

Keep Fighting,

The Indivisible SF Team

If you’d like to support our all-volunteer team:


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Since the January 2017, more than 4,000 San Franciscans have united as Indivisible SF to march in the Women's Marches, protest the Muslim Ban, meet regularly with our Members of Congress, and make thousands of phone calls to their offices to pressure them to do everything in their power to counter the policies and politics of Trumpism. There is much work in progress and many actions to come.

Members of Indivisible SF are defined by our action and find solidarity in our shared opposition to Trump and Trumpism. Each of us explicitly reserves our individual stances on specific issues for other forums as we believe resisting Trump is more important than any single issue. We adhere to a Code of Conduct that welcomes and respects everybody.

Members of Indivisible SF come from all kinds of backgrounds and political persuasions. Some of us are first-time activists and others have been at this for decades. We are citizens and non-citizens. Most importantly, we are all patriots that want the best for our country and are willing to work for it.

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