Graham floats potential compromise on qualified immunity

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is floating a possible compromise on what was one of the key holdups in the negotiations surrounding policing reform legislation after the death of George Floyd in 2020.

The death of Tyre Nichols, 29, at the hands of police in Memphis earlier this month has sparked a renewed push for policing reform legislation. But one of the main obstacles to an agreement between Republicans and Democrats has long been the issue of qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity is the rule that shields law enforcement from liability in civil lawsuits unless accusers can prove that the allegations amount to a violation of constitutional rights and those rights are “clearly established.” It is a hurdle that a number of activists and some lawmakers say is unclear in many police misconduct cases.

Democrats wanted it axed in talks over a policing reform package in 2020, but Republicans insisted the protections stay.

But Graham floated on social media that while he doesn’t believe individual officers should have civil lawsuits filed against them, he does believe that police departments should face liability for the actions of their officers.

“I oppose civil lawsuits against individual officers,” Graham said on Twitter. “However, holding police departments accountable makes sense and they should face liability for the misconduct of their officers.”

The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in June 2020, but negotiations for a package that could clear the evenly divided Senate collapsed later. The brutality of the beating taken by Nichols, seen in police videos released last week, has renewed the ambition of legislators to get a reform package passed.

Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), one of Democrats’ lead negotiators on the policing reform bill in 2020, plans to reintroduce a version of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as soon as this week, according to Politico. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested over the weekend that Booker and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the Senate Republican lead on the bill two years ago, should come back together to negotiate a compromise on a new policing reform bill.

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