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Do police officers automatically get qualified immunity?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2020 | Municipal Defense

Qualified immunity protects government employees in Texas from lawsuits when they become involved in an incident while working. The intent is to create an environment where employees can perform their job duties without fear of civil consequences. Police officers are among the workers protected by qualified immunity policies.

The calls from many people across the nation for police officers to be held more accountable for their actions has caused qualified immunity to come under greater scrutiny. Critics argue that qualified immunity policies make it impossible for victims of police misconduct to receive the justice they deserve.

When Qualified Immunity Applies

Qualified immunity does not protect police officers in every situation. Officers must demonstrate they acted in “good faith” when a questionable incident happens. The officer also must not have violated any of the statutory or constitutional rights enjoyed by the offended individual.

Other factors the court will take into consideration include whether or not the officer acted reasonably as well as injuries sustained by the other party.

The Ongoing Debate

The current president of the Police Officer’s Union in Houston recently weighed in on the debate. The president expressed his belief that removing qualified immunity protections would expose police officers to a barrage of unnecessary civil actions. The union president went on to say an environment in which every arrest resulted in a lawsuit would make it impossible for officers to perform their job duties.

Opponents say the problem with qualified immunity is that it can prevent a jury from ever hearing a case.

The work of a police officer is more than difficult enough without the threat of lawsuits whenever an arrest takes place. Police officers targeted with lawsuits for doing their job may benefit from speaking with an attorney.