For decades, the legal construct of qualified immunity has allowed law enforcement officers and others to escape consequences for serious misconduct. It holds that officials cannot be held accountable unless their precise conduct has been found to be wrongful in the past, which keeps it from being found wrongful in the current instance. In practice, qualified immunity serves as a giant rubber stamp on even the most egregious transgressions. Above the Law: How "Qualified Immunity" Protects Violent Police by Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's fame), a new book slated for June 15 publication, highlights some examples, including these:

DAVID COLLIE, then thirty-three, was walking to visit some friends who lived nearby on July 16, 2016, when he was accosted by Fort Worth, Texas, cops looking for two robbery suspects who did not match his description, except for being shirtless and Black. Collie was walking away from police when he took his hand out of his pockets, as directed, and raised his arm. Officer Hugo Barron fired a hollow-point bullet into Collie's back, shattering his spine and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Collie, who now lives in a nursing home, was unarmed. His lawsuit against Barron was dismissed due to qualified immunity. A federal appeals court said the case "exemplifies an individual's being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

KHARI ILLIDGE, a twenty-five-year-old Black man, was walking around a suburb of Columbus, Georgia, in 2013, naked and clearly having a mental health crisis. The cops arrived and told him to stop walking. When he did not, they tased him six times until he crumpled, then thirteen more times while he was on the ground. Then police hog-tied his wrists and ankles. A 385-pound officer knelt on his back. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. An appeals court ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because there was no precedent case against tasing, hog-tying, and then crushing someone to death.

MALAIKA BROOKS, a thirty-three-year-old Black woman, was driving her young son to school in Seattle, Washington, one day in November 2004 when she was pulled over for speeding. The officer gave her a citation and asked her to sign it, as the law then required. When she declined, the officer called for backup and Brooks was ordered to step out of the car. When she said she was seven months' pregnant, the cops tased her three times, dragged her to the street, and placed her...

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