Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr on October 16, 2020:
The bottom line is that, if we are going to send our police officers into uncertain and potentially fatal encounters, we need to be fair to them in judging their actions.
The absolute worse thing would be to adopt the radical proposal to eliminate qualified immunity, which protects police officers from personal liability when they make good-faith errors in enforcing the law. If an officer knowingly violates someone’s clearly established rights, personal liability may be appropriate. But qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their jobs without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to financial ruin. Without qualified immunity individual officers would be deterred from going into risky situations that are necessary to save lives.
If we wish to minimize excessive-force situations, the most important step we could take is to re-establish the principle that there is no valid justification for physically resisting a police officer. The approach must be “comply first, complain later.” This will save the lives of officers and of suspects.
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