A man who says he lost an eye last summer while peacefully protesting has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against the police officer who allegedly left him partially blind. The officer accused of firing the tear gas round into Balin Brake’s face is requesting qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that often protects state actors from being held accountable in civil court.
Brake, 22, says that on May 30, 2020, he arrived at the Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a nonviolent demonstration following the death of George Floyd. While standing with his hands up, he claims, a group of officers with the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) fired tear gas into the crowd, prompting them to retreat. One tear gas canister hit his right shoe, causing it to burn; he then looked back, at which point Officer Justin Holmes allegedly fired a canister that hit Brake in the face.
Over the past few years, the residents of Illinois — especially those who live in Chicago — have been subjected to a militarized police state occupation. Innocent family after innocent family each waking up in the middle of the night as heavily armed storm troopers throw flash bangs into their homes, haul them outside in the cold, point guns at their heads, and even handcuff small children. These families are being terrorized in their own homes, many of them left with PTSD, and no one is being held accountable — because the state is the one behind the terror — and the doctrine of qualified immunity protects them all.
House Bill 1727, introduced by Rep. Curtis Tarver sets out to change this paradigm. The aptly titled Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act aims to end qualified immunity for cops who violate the rights of citizens.
For those who may be unaware, the Supreme Court created qualified immunity in 1982. With that novel invention, the court granted all government officials immunity for violating constitutional and civil rights unless the victims of those violations can show that the rights were “clearly established.”
The court held in Harlow v. Fitzgerald that government actors are entitled to this immunity due to the “need to protect officials who are required to exercise discretion and the related public interest in encouraging the vigorous exercise of official authority.”
Television journalist Sharyl Attkisson and her family sued former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein for illegally spying on them in violation of the Fourth Amendment and federal law during the Obama administration. A federal court dismissed the lawsuit earlier this week by finding that Rosenstein is entitled to qualified immunity.
The controversy has taken numerous paths through the legal system since the Attkissons claimed they discovered that the government had hacked into their computers and cellphones in 2014—first filing a lawsuit against former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and numerous “John Doe” agents with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) based on alleged violations of the First and Fourth Amendments.
Since the George Floyd protests began last May, they morphed into a much broader movement which began exposing a problem this country has suffered from for a long time. The system of law enforcement in this country has morphed into a militarized standing army, preying on the poor, and rife with corruption. Naturally, people are pissed and this anger is finally morphing into solutions.
Unfortunately, much of the calls for change were washed away with the largely aimless “defund the police” campaign that provided lots of talking points but no tangible solutions. But the news is not all bad. Some lawmakers are moving forward with significant changes that will be magnitudes more effective than simply calling for “defunding the police.”
To lower the likelihood of future chaos, America’s system of law enforcement needs this radical change. Instead of random chants, the discussion we should be having is how to fix this broken system. It is not difficult, it is based in logic and reason, and its effects would be significantly felt almost overnight.
For nearly a decade, the Free Thought Project has been advocating for police officers to carry their own personal liability insurance like doctors. Now, it is finally catching on.
A bill proposed in Utah, H.B. 367 would require cops to carry their own personal insurance which would place the burden of lawsuit on them — not the taxpayers.
As the following case illustrates, this doctrine is used to excuse the most heinous of behavior, even when if violates completely innocent women in utterly rapacious ways.
Angela Calloway has never been suspected of a crime, never arrested, and has never been to jail. She is, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf, “completely innocent.” She does, however, know someone behind bars.
When Calloway went to visit this person behind bars, she was subject to an utterly horrifying experience at the hands of prison guards. She was forced to strip down and remove her tampon from her vagina which was then inspected by officers before being thrown away.
Naturally, Calloway felt that her rights were violated — namely her 4th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure — so she filed a lawsuit against the federal prison in Virginia where her violation took place.
This week, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit justified the search, ruling that forcing a completely innocent woman to strip down and pull out her tampon in front of police to inspect it — is A-Okay — even forcing her to squat, cough, and spread her butt cheeks.
A draft report from the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice reveals the Trump administration’s plan to further expand the national police state, with an emphasis on supporting and expanding qualified immunity and facial recognition.
The president formed the commission via executive order in January. A federal judge recently blocked the release of the commission’s report due to a lack of diversity on the panel and evidence that it operated in secrecy in violation of public meeting laws.
The court order stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF). The suit claimed the commission failed to provide proper notice of public hearing and that it gave too much influence to law enforcement interests in violation of laws dictating how federal advisory committees must operate.
According to a Reuters report, “The panel’s 18 commissioners include federal, state and local law enforcement representatives, but no civil rights advocates, defense attorneys or big-city police officials.”
Through an open records request, Reuters obtained a draft of the commission’s report, revealing a plan to further empower law enforcement in the United States. A New York Times op-ed declared, “The president’s commission was considering recommendations that could transform this nation into a dystopian police state.”
The report recommends increasing “due process” protections for police offers facing charges of misconduct, and called on the Justice Department to regularly affirm support for qualified immunity.
The horrifying video of George Floyd’s death, and the protests that followed, led to a rare occurrence: The police officers responsible are being prosecuted. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and remains in jail, and three other officers are facing lesser charges.
Kentucky’s recent decision not to bring homicide charges against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor is much more typical. Most instances of law enforcement brutality do not result in criminal charges, even when they are captured on video. They often result in no consequences at all. This includes many cases of excessive force in response to the protests after Floyd’s death, but the problem is long standing, and not restricted to local police.
Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. was not prosecuted or disciplined for shooting and killing a 15-year-old boy, and the Supreme Court ruled last year that the boy’s parents could not sue.
And the list goes on.
A federal appeals court on Thursday declined to grant qualified immunity to an Alabama police officer who shot and killed a man “without warning” for failing to show identification after he attempted to help a stray dog his family found in a parking lot.
Robert Earl Lawrence was shot in the stomach by Dothan Police Sergeant Adrianne Woodruff and he bled out on the pavement “on the next to last day of the year” in 2014. His three young children and his girlfriend were in the car–screaming while it happened.
Prior to his death and altercation with police, Lawrence, reportedly a sovereign citizen, was just trying to help the dog his family found near the local Walmart by taking it to the Dothan Animal Shelter.
But Lawrence’s attempt to help quickly went askew.
“The receptionist told Lawrence that they accepted dogs only from residents of Houston County,” the court notes. “He told her that he was from nearby Geneva County but had found the dog in Houston County. She agreed to take the dog but asked for his identification. He refused to provide it, claiming that being required to do so would violate his federal privacy rights.”
A brief argument ensued and Woodruff entered the room–reiterating the shelter’s policy about accepting strays and advising Lawrence to fill out an intake form. He declined and left the shelter, “carrying the dog with him,” saying he would just leave the animal on the road.
Woodruff followed Lawrence out and warned him that dumping the dog would be considered a crime. She also copied down his tag number–in line with a policy for people who threaten to dump animals the shelter refuses to take in. As Lawrence got into his car, Woodruff grabbed him from behind and said “You’re not leaving.”