From police traffic stops to qualified immunity for officers, 5 ways to reform policing

·2 min read

In the wake of Derek Chauvin's conviction for the murder of George Floyd, USA TODAY's Editorial Board decided the time was ripe for a series of editorials aimed at building on momentum to make police more accountable, protect the lives of the public and rebuild trust in law enforcement.

Here they are:

End qualified immunity

Created by the Supreme Court in a series of rulings starting in 1967, qualified immunity means if a victim wants to sue police – or any government official – she must find a case from the Supreme Court or in her federal circuit (the United States is divided into 12 circuits) where a court ruled that the exact same situation violated constitutional rights. If she can’t, those rights are not considered clearly established and the courtroom door is barred. The absurdity of qualified immunity is obvious in the hair-splitting distinctions courts make to let police officers off the hook.

A demonstration for George Floyd on June 12, 2020, outside the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul.
A demonstration for George Floyd on June 12, 2020, outside the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul.

End no-knock warrants

No-knock warrants, which allow police to break down doors without knocking or identifying themselves, are especially dangerous to civilians: At least 31 were killed from 2010 through 2016. But they also can be deadly for police, eight of whom were killed during the same period.

Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

End so-called officers' bill of rights

These special rules – some granted by state laws and others by police union contracts – impede investigations in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to fire a police officer for misconduct. Yet because criminal charges against police are so rare, the only way the public usually has to hold police accountable is internal investigations.

The majority of asset forfeiture seizures is cash.
The majority of asset forfeiture seizures is cash.

End civil asset forfeiture

Forfeiture is meant to battle crime by taking profits from swindlers and drug dealers, and at times it does. But the way it has been used for decades, it too often ensnares law-abiding citizens who are never charged with a crime.

Police vehicle in Philadelphia on June 24, 2021.
Police vehicle in Philadelphia on June 24, 2021.

End needless police stops

How about starting with one simple change? What if police stopped pulling over drivers – Black or white – for technical infractions that have nothing to do with safety? Also, young Black men shouldn't have to endure racist traffic stops as a rite of passage.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After George Floyd murder: 5 ways to reforming policing the USA

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