House eyes ending qualified immunity for ‘bad apples’ in law enforcement

Illinois Capitol News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — After an impressive run passing their entire agenda through the legislature earlier this year, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is looking to continue momentum into the spring session with a renewed focus on ending qualified immunity for police officers.

“This is not an anti cop, this is not a defund the police, this is none of that,” Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) said on Tuesday. “This only targets the bad apples, the ones who do extreme measures, willful and wanton acts, not those who make mistakes, not for those. Mistakes happen. But it’s for those who violate a constitutional right, and it is obvious that it could have been avoided.”

West described qualified immunity as a sort of “double blanket” built into the court system, or a “judicial bypass” that allows police officers off the hook for facing personal liability in civil suits, and shifts that financial burden to the police force or the city government.

Jim Kaitschuk, Executive Director of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, warned last month that law enforcement officers would retire in droves if the state removed qualified immunity.

“You want us to be in a situation where we can rely upon our training, and know that based on the law that we’ve been taught, that we’re doing the right thing,” Kaitschuk said. “Take that away, and more people are going to get hurt.”

“I won’t be a police officer anymore if they eliminate qualified immunity,” he said.

Kaitschuk works on the force as an officer in Leland Grove and a sheriff’s deputy in Menard County. He says officers should not have to be financially exposed to personal liability in civil court over mistakes on the job.

“That’s not the case,” West said. “They still have indemnification agreements in the statute for them to be protected, and so they could do their job without being scared of the repercussions.”

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