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Graham Qualified Immunity Letter

By July 23, 2018January 11th, 2021MassCOP and Police Reform

The Honorable Lindsey Graham, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Graham,

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MassCOP) represents over 4300 sworn police officers and public safety dispatchers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We vehemently oppose any move towards elimination of qualified immunity, or any effort to reduce those protections for Law Enforcement.

Scott A. Hovsepian
President
John E. Nelson
First Vice President
Robert W. Murphy
Secretary/Treasurer

P: 508-581-9336
F: 508-581-9564

Police officers work under very stressful situations. Decisions about whether or not to use force are sometimes made in split seconds. Officers ┬Ěcannot operate effectively and safely if paralyzed with fear of liability. The doctrine is applied only in a small number of civil cases when no government official would have known that they were violating a clearly established constitutional or statutory right. The court has stated in subsequent cases that the standard “provides no license to lawless conduct”. This is demonstrated in the George Floyd case, where the officers have been arrested and criminally charged for their actions. They will not be eligible for qualified immunity.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police, as well as law enforcement in general, are not looking to protect those who are knowingly breaking the law and knowingly violating people’s constitutional rights. We are looking to continue to protect those who are out there operating in good faith trying their best to protect the people who live and work in our communities. We stand alongside our community members who want us to improve our policing methods and practices. We always strive to be the best we can be. We have to be given the resources to train properly and to work without fear of retribution for “after the fact liability” pertaining to actions that no reasonable official could have known were unlawful at the time.

Law Enforcement, along with most other government officials, fall under the protections of qualified immunity, unlike judges, prosecutors, and Members of Congress who enjoy absolute immunity. On its face, it is somewhat ironic that the people who have the most time to make decisions are provided with the most protection from liability. Multiplying the irony is the fact that the people who are given the least time to make the most difficult decisions are afforded less protection and that there is discussion surrounding the removal of said protection. We respectfully request that you and your honorable committee consider the negative impact that elimination or modification of qualified immunity will have, not only to law enforcement, but to the communities that we serve.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated consideration of this important issue.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss this matter further.

Sincerely,

Scott Hovsepian
President

John Nelson
First Vice President

Robert Murphy
Secretary/Treasurer

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