In this #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo social justice era — particularly since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer — the idea of police officers enjoying qualified immunity is anathema to many.

The modern construct of qualified immunity, under which police officers are protected from liability over constitutional violations as long as they’re found to have acted “in good faith” carrying out their jobs, dates back just over a half century. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that officers couldn’t be sued for violating civil rights under a law that was later deemed unconstitutional, because they had, in good faith, believed enforcing it was proper.

Through the years, it’s been refined from that “good faith” standard to one of “objective reasonableness” — under which the question “is whether a reasonably well-trained officer in petitioner’s position would have known” that his or her actions violated someone’s civil rights, as the court put it in a 1986 case. In that case, Malley v. Briggs, the court also wrote that qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”

And that standard largely remains, as most recently demonstrated in two Supreme Court rulings issued Monday. One involved an officer who put his knee in a suspect’s back, on the ground, during a domestic violence call. The other involved two officers who fatally shot a man in his garage who had raised a hammer above his head while facing them.

The court’s two unsigned opinions overturned lower-court rulings that had found the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity.

There’s no question the officers in both cases could have acted differently. The question was whether how they did react was reasonable for the situations they were in. The court said yes.

Critics of qualified immunity fear it gives too broad a shield to officers who misbehave. They argue that the legal standard to which complainants are held in such cases is too exacting.

We’re not convinced that’s true. By the nature of what they do, and the trying circumstance under which they do it, police officers (and other law enforcement) constantly have to make judgment calls that determine the fate and safety of everyone at hand. It’s not an easy position to be in, and would likely not be helped by having to constantly stop and weigh the lawsuit possibilities of every move. Perhaps the “good faith” standard was too lenient and hard to validate. The “objective reasonableness” view may protect some who don’t deserve it, but other than litigating every confrontation and/or arrest, there seems no way to completely balance that ledger.

Instead, the onus ought to fall on those setting the policies, standards and training of officers. Agency heads — chiefs, commanders, etc. — and especially those who oversee those agencies on an executive level, need to be putting their money where their mouths have been since Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests: in making sure all their officers are trained properly to avoid violating anyone’s rights and in lessening the chance of violent outcomes.

And they ought to be making sure officers know there will be repercussions for those whose actions fall beyond that “objectively reasonable” measure. That would be the opposite of the Manchester Police Department, which listed qualified immunity as a “unique benefit” in a job ad, as if to say: Work here, and you’ll never be held accountable for anything you do! That message is both wrong (qualified immunity exists across the nation) and sends the exact wrong signal to potential officers.

There have been efforts to end qualified immunity in New Hampshire. Most recently, Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, put forth House Bill 111, which would have ended qualified immunity as a defense in excessive-force cases and other lawsuits. Lobbied against strongly by law enforcement, it was tabled by the House in a close vote this past session.

Thought it wasn’t without its merits, we’d rather see agencies — and those who oversee them — improve training and policies first and foremost, to raise the standards officers are held to. An ounce of prevention and all that.

During a time when there’s been a shift in the public’s expectations of officers’ conduct and a call for more training, whatever standards for when qualified immunity is granted should be reflective of that.

If, however, those in charge continue to simply fall back behind the shield of qualified immunity as a right, well, then, Berch’s bill will still be waiting.

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