Qualified immunity: Why police are protected from civil lawsuits, trials | Just the FAQs

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The doctrine of qualified immunity has been used to protect police from civil lawsuits and trials. Here’s why it was put in place.
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On May 25, Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. While two officers pinned the handcuffed Floyd on a city street, another fended off would-be intervenors as a fourth knelt on Floyd’s neck until — and well after — he lost consciousness.

But when Floyd’s family goes to court to hold the officers liable for their actions, a judge in Minnesota may very well dismiss their claims. Not because the officers didn’t do anything wrong, but because there isn’t a case from the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court specifically holding that it is unconstitutional for police to kneel on the neck of a handcuffed man for nearly nine minutes until he loses consciousness and then dies.

And such a specific case is what Floyd’s family must provide to overcome a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” that shields police and all other government officials from accountability for their illegal and unconstitutional acts.

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