Sen. Mike Braun pushes to reform police qualified immunity

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana U.S. Senator Mike Braun is pushing to scale back some police protections.

Qualified immunity was granted to law enforcement to defend them while acting in good faith.

However, Sen. Braun said it has been abused, and he wants to reform the doctrine.

In his press release, Braun pointed to two real life instances to explain why he thinks the current qualified immunity system isn’t working. One of those examples included police breaking the collarbone of an unarmed woman and the other was related to police releasing a K-9 on a person who surrendered.

His proposal for reform requires police to prove there was a statute or court case in the relevant jurisdiction showing conduct was authorized.

“Unless there is a law, federal or state, or a court ruling that would make legal whatever an officer might do, that is your immunity, so to speak,” explained Braun. “If it goes beyond that, then the organization and the individual officer would have some accountability.”

Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police President William Owensby said qualified immunity does not protect police from being punished for wrongdoing.

“It does not prevent them from being criminally charged, it doesn’t prevent them from being fired, it doesn’t prevent them from having their certification revoked,” said Owensby.

Instead – he said it stops against frivolous lawsuits.

“The very first thing it would prevent is ludicrous civil actions that would bog down the system to no end,” said Owensby.

Braun wants to make sure the changes don’t hurt groups like the FOP.

“We’ve got to have some type of sensible framework out there for the sake of organizations like FOP so, for all the good work that they do, they don’t get stigmatized by these bad occurrences,” said Braun.

Owensby said he has yet to hear from Braun about his proposal.

“Simply the fact that we have not had conversations with the senator does cause me concern because I don’t know where he is getting his factual basis for the reason for him writing this bill,” said Owensby. “We’re willing to sit down with anyone at any time and talk about police reform as long as the conversation involves factual basis.”

Braun calls his proposal a landing spot that he hopes will be part of Senator Tim Scott’s bill on law enforcement reform.

“This could be part of an amendment process that brings in the discussion of qualified immunity because if it isn’t we probably won’t get any Democrats voting on the motion to proceed,” said Braun.

Senator Scott’s bill is expected to be voted on this week.

Indiana’s other U.S. Senator, Todd Young, is cosponsoring it. We asked him to comment on Braun’s proposal Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Young’s office said, “Qualified immunity is a very complex legal issue that merits vetting through the committee hearing process. Senator Young is cosponsoring Senator Tim Scott’s comprehensive law enforcement reform bill, the JUSTICE Act, and continues to examine additional steps that may be needed to address police reform.”

We also asked Democratic Congressman Andre Carson to weigh in.

“For far too long, the flawed practice of qualified immunity has denied justice to victims of police misconduct and brutality. I am encouraged that my fellow Hoosier recognizes the importance of fixing the problems with qualified immunity and has offered a proposal for the Senate to consider. I am a strong supporter of bipartisan provisions in the House bill from Reps. Amash and Pressley, which I expect the House to approve this week. As the legislative process advances between the House and Senate, I am cautiously optimistic that, in this unique moment in time, we will find consensus to make real change in policing that is long overdue.”

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana

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