NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says he supports new legislation dramatically limiting police officers’ use of what’s known as qualified immunity.
But he focused Friday on whether those officers will be on the hook financially.
“It makes it easier if someone has a concern to bring a legal action, but it does not put the individual financial penalty on the officer,” de Blasio told WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “It puts it on the department and the city, and that's what I was comfortable with.”
What You Need To Know
- City Council passes bill to curb invoking of legal doctrine to avoid misconduct lawsuits
- De Blasio notes bill makes it easier to sue police
- But he says NYPD and city, not individual officer, would pay out any damages
The City Council on Thursday approved a set of police reform measures that included a bill ending qualified immunity as a defense for police officers in cases of unreasonable searches and seizures and of excessive force.
Once signed into law, the legislation will make it far easier to sue the NYPD for misconduct.
It was hailed by some as a landmark.
“The @NYCCouncil just voted to end qualified immunity for police officers, making NYC the first city in the country to do so,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted.
Johnson noted that qualified immunity was established during the civil rights movement to protect police.
“It denied those Freedom Riders justice, and it has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades,” he said at Thursday’s City Council meeting. “It never should have been allowed. It should have been ended decades ago. And it must end now in New York City.”
De Blasio said he worries that making police officers financially responsible would hurt NYPD recruiting efforts, particularly as the department works to hire more racial minorities.
City Councilman Stephen Levin is the sponsor of the bill to ban qualified immunity as a defense for police in many cases of misconduct. He told NY1 that offending officers would be liable whether they’re indemnified by the city or not. He notes they would still be named in the lawsuit.
The clause to make officers personally financially responsible was removed between the bill’s initial draft and its final form.
Public defenders supported its scrapping, saying it would be harder for their clients to recoup damages if individual officers — and not the NYPD or city — were financially liable.
Police unions roundly criticized the Council-passed reforms as a whole.
The Police Benevolent Association posted: “Yesterday, the @NYCCouncil passed more anti-cop legislation, but NOT ONE bill aimed at curbing violence. The result? More criminals exploiting this environment and causing bloodshed.”
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