Board opposes changes to qualified immunity

Members of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors agreed to write a letter to the county’s elected officials in the Virginia General Assembly to oppose efforts to reduce qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Qualified immunity is a legal principle intended to shield sheriff’s deputies and police officers from lawsuits, except in cases where an officer is shown to have violated a clearly established law. The principle is often invoked in cases where police are accused of misconduct such as excessive force.

Democrats in the state House of Delegates voted on Sept. 8 to roll back qualified immunity. The bill faced an uncertain future in the state Senate, where Democrats had already voted once to table the measure. The bill would allow lawsuits that allege citizens’ constitutional rights were violated to proceed in state courts.

“Without qualified immunity, I think you would see droves of good law enforcement officers leave, to be replaced by who knows what,” Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral District) said.

Legislators who support changes to qualified immunity say police departments, not the individual officers, would pay for legal costs in cases where officers are accused of using excessive force.

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