New York City on Thursday became the first city in the United States to end qualified immunity for police officers, which shields state and local police from liability when they commit abuses against citizens.
The City Council said in a statement that it passed a bill creating a local civil right protecting the city’s residents against unreasonable search and seizures, excessive force, and a ban on the use of qualified immunity as a defense.
The City Council also voted to allow the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate police with a history of bias and racial complaints, issue quarterly reports on traffic stops and to transfer the authority of granting and suspending press passes from the NYPD to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
The principle of qualified immunity has come under scrutiny amid a wider conversation of police brutality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans last year.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D) hailed the bill’s passage, noting that the city is the first in the country to end qualified immunity.
“The @NYCCouncil just voted to end qualified immunity for police officers, making NYC the first city in the country to do so. Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law,” Johnson tweeted.
“Rooted in our nation’s history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades,” Johnson continued. “It should never have been allowed, but I’m proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC.”
Rooted in our nation's history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades.
It should never have been allowed, but I'm proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC. 2/2
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) March 25, 2021