U.S. lawmaker prepares bill aiming to end court protection for police


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With cities across America in turmoil over the death of George Floyd, a U.S. lawmaker plans to introduce legislation this week that he hopes will end a pattern of police violence by allowing victims to sue officers for illegal and unconstitutional acts.

U.S. Representative Justin Amash, a conservative independent from Michigan, won support from a Minneapolis Democrat on Monday for his “Ending Qualified Immunity Act,” which would allow civil lawsuits against police, a recourse that the Supreme Court has all but done away with.

The high court’s adoptihere of the qualified immunity doctrine has largely shielded police from having to pay financial settlements to victims or grieving families. The doctrine increasingly protects cops even when courts determine that officers violate civil rights, a Reuters investigation showed here

“The brutal killing of George Floyd is merely the latest in a long line of incidents of egregious police misconduct,” Amash told colleagues in a letter on Sunday. “This pattern continues because police are legally, politically and culturally insulated … That must change so that these incidents stop happening.”

Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minneapolis Democrat, intends to back the bill, according to an aide. Amash aims to introduce it on Thursday, an aide said. It was unclear whether the legislation would gain support from the Congressional Black Caucus, which is leading discussions on a response to police violence.

Amash’s bill joins a flurry of Democratic legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate, as lawmakers seek ways to respond to Floyd’s death a week ago. A black man, Floyd died after pleading for his life as a white Minneapolis policeman kneeled on his neck.

Protesters angered by Floyd’s death and racial inequities have demonstrated for six straight nights. Dozens of cities are under curfews following violence.

Republicans have condemned Floyd’s killing and voiced support for peaceful protests, but have largely steered clear of criticizing or echoing President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric toward violent protesters.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton on Monday tweeted that Trump should use the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty military forces to cities to “ensure this violence ends tonight.”

Reporting by David Morgan, Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; editing by Grant McCool