The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to reexamine the much criticized doctrine of qualified immunity, which shields police from lawsuits over their misconduct. The doctrine of qualified immunity was originally developed decades ago in order to protect police from frivolous lawsuits, and to give them some grace for mistakes that involve split-second judgments in dangerous situations. Qualified immunity asks two simple questions: 1) Did the police use excessive force? and if so, 2) Should police have known that their conduct was illegal because it violated a prior court ruling specifically barring such conduct? What developed in practice over time was that courts often dismissed police misconduct lawsuits on the grounds that there were no prior court decisions, with nearly identical facts, for police to know that their conduct was wrong. In short, the doctrine allowed police to skate on a lot of questionable conduct. Until the high court agrees to hear a new case, reexamining this doctrine, it will continue to act as an absolute shield to protect police, Unlike what we see through the ongoing protests in cities and towns throughout this country, change moves ever so slowly at the Supreme Court
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