Wisconsin Right Now previously expressed concern about abolishing qualified immunity in an opinion piece.
George Floyd Act: The president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Patrick Mitchell, has written the state’s two U.S. Senators to express “grave concerns” about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, saying it could have “disastrous” ramifications that would endanger officers’ safety. He called some of its provisions “dangerous.”
He is asking U.S. Sens. to vote the act down in its entirety.
In his letter to each senator, obtained by Wisconsin Right Now, Mitchell notes that the bill recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now in the U.S. Senate for consideration.
“Section 102 would eliminate Qualified Immunity and Section 101 has language which would alter the mens rea (state of mind) in 18 U.S.C. Section 242 from a ‘willfulness’ to ‘Recklessness’ standard, which would effectively make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers.”
(Wisconsin Right Now previously expressed concern about abolishing qualified immunity as outlined in the George Floyd Act in an opinion piece. You can read it here.)
Mitchell says the bill “contains numerous dangerous changes to existing law which would also have devastating impacts upon law enforcement. Such changes include the elimination of transferring surplus federal equipment to law enforcement, and creating a national registry of police misconduct, which would include incidents in which the officer was exonerated.”
George Floyd Act
Law enforcement officers “willingly place their personal safety in jeopardy for the safety of others, but the above-described changes will further decrease their safety,” he wrote. “The courts have long held that qualified immunity is essential to allow officers to take calculated risks in situations in which all of the facts are not known, which ultimately is for the betterment of society.”
If qualified immunity is eliminated, he wrote, “officers will stop acting in numerous incidents which would be disastrous to the communities that we serve. Officers would essentially be placed in a situation in which they could only act when they had complete certainty about all facts, which is something that rarely occurs.”
He concluded, “As chiefs, we strive to lead departments in which officers act in a professional manner and treat citizens with dignity and respect. We understand the need for logical police reform but the above described proposed changes would make our communities less safe. I am respectfully asking that you vote against this bill in its entirety.”
Mitchell is also the West Allis police chief.
The Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association website explains,
The mission of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Inc. is to be the public voice on social and professional issues for law enforcement; to be a resource to its members; to make training available regarding the state-of-the-art concepts in policing; to be a legislative advocate for law enforcement; to provide representation for the general good of law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels; to provide open communications with members and the public; to ensure the organization, as the beacon for Wisconsin law enforcement; embodies the highest level of integrity and honesty; and embraces moral and ethical behavior emanating from the principles found in the law enforcement code of ethics.