February 15, 2022
Keli Young, Keli@vocal-ny.org
Mariah McGough, Mariah@vocal-ny.org
LAWMAKERS AND ADVOCATES DEMAND AN END TO QUALIFIED IMMUNITY IN NYS AT VIRTUAL PRESS CONFERENCE
S1991/A4331 Would Eliminate the Defense of Qualified Immunity Which Shields Police and Correctional Officers From Civil Liability
NEW YORK — Today, state lawmakers and advocates with VOCAL-NY and the End Qualified Immunity NY Campaign gathered virtually for a press conference to demand New York State end Qualified Immunity by passing S1991/A4331 this session.
“It’s time to end qualified immunity. We need to talk about how our communities are over policed and how they are treated by the government. All officials regardless of positions of power need to be held accountable,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein.
“During Black History Month we’ve seen legislators write empty promises online about justice, but we need them to sign onto S1991/A4331 to actually protect our civil rights,” said Darlene McDay, Co-founder of the End Qualified Immunity NY Campaign. “This is about fixing a culture of impunity that’s been rampant in law enforcement for years. This year, we’re determined to pass this bill and see the change in New York that we’ve been demanding for years.”
“I can’t believe we are still talking about this in 2022 because this is a matter of life and death,” said Susan Hadley, a leader with VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Union. “The police are supposed to protect and serve the people, but instead they are hiding behind their shields and killing us everyday. Where is the justice for those on our streets and in the tombs? We must end qualified immunity now.”
“I’ve been directly impacted by mass incarceration, police brutality, and qualified immunity,” said James Hill, a member of the Buffalo chapter of VOCAL-NY. “I have been assaulted multiple times, both inside and outside prison. I’ve felt their knees on my back. But unlike others who have committed crimes, police are not held accountable. This is why we must pass this bill and end this unconstitutional practice of shielding law enforcement.”
“I’ve been directly impacted by violence by prison guards and been witness to the harm correctional officers cause and get away with impunity,” said Mfalme Sikivu, a member of the Albany chapter of VOCAL-NY and formerly-incarcerated activist who was granted clemency. “The reason why these things happen is because of the shield qualified immunity provides law enforcement. This is no accountability and it allows for abuse in correctional settings. Real lives are at stake here, and it’s time to end qualified immunity.”
Qualified immunity empowers abuse, denies us justice and accountability, and makes public safety impossible. Violence by law enforcement disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and we don’t want to spend another Black History Month where law enforcement aren’t held accountable for their abuses. From Rikers to Bedford and all across our state, law enforcement officers continue to show a brazen disregard for our basic constitutional rights. Ending qualified immunity is a critical step toward ending this culture of impunity.