Jun 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott: Ending qualified immunity is a "poison pill" for Republicans

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that ending qualified immunity for police officers is "off the table" for Republicans, and that "any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done." 

Why it matters: Ending “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine that makes it all but impossible to successfully sue police officers, is one of several policy proposals that has gained traction on the left.

  • Scott has been tasked with spearheading Senate Republicans' reform proposal. He told CBS' Margaret Brennan that his legislation will focus on increasing information sharing, reforming training and tactics to prioritize de-escalation, and changing how departments deal with officer misconduct.
  • Scott said he's interested in de-certification of officers who engage in misconduct, but said that police unions are opposed to that idea and it's unlikely to get support from the left.

What they're saying:

"From the Republican perspective and the president sent the signal that qualified immunity is off the table. They see that as a poison pill on our side. We could use a de-certification of officer, except for the law enforcement unions say that's a poison pill. So we're going to have to find a path that helps us reduce misconduct within the officers. But at the same time, we know that any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done. That sends the wrong signal, perhaps the worst signal, right now in America. I think we're going to have legislation that can be negotiated, that gets us to the place where something becomes law that actually makes a difference. That's got to be our goal. 
— Sen. Tim Scott

The big picture: House Democrats have introduced a sweeping police reform package that includes proposals like banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants and removing qualified immunity for police officers.

  • The "Justice in Policing Act of 2020" aims to broaden police accountability by tracking "problematic" officers through a national misconduct registry for officers over actions in the field.

The other side: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) later told "Face the Nation" that he's spoken to Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and that ending qualified immunity is still "on the table."

Go deeper: The policies that could help fix policing

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