Sen.-elect Shevrin Jones says he’ll introduce a bill during the 2021 Session to gut the controversial qualified immunity doctrine for police officers.
Jones announced the push Monday as part of his 2021 Legislative Session agenda, which he dubbed the “People’s Agenda.”
The modern qualified immunity doctrine stems from a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case.
The doctrine has been interpreted by many courts to say that police officers cannot be sued for violating a person’s rights unless a court has already ruled that behavior is unconstitutional.
Proponents of qualified immunity argue it serves as a needed protection for police. Officers need some guidance for what is and is not improper behavior. Therefore, backers would argue, it’s unfair to hold an officer liable without a prior precedent showing an action is unconstitutional.
But opponents have pointed out the doctrine has served as a significant roadblock to holding officers responsible for violating individuals’ rights in the decades since the Supreme Court established the concept.
Jones’ proposal would follow a law approved in Colorado in June. That bill asserts that any violation of a person’s rights under the state constitution could not be blocked outright by a qualified immunity defense. It’s unclear how Jones’ bill might differ from the Colorado proposal.
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis earlier this year set off nationwide protests and prompted increased attention to criminal justice reform issues.
“Throughout my time in public service, my goal has always been to make sure that the People have a seat at the table and are heard,” Jones said Monday.
“These challenging times call for a distinct focus on addressing the pressing needs of our community, from rebuilding our economy to ensuring justice and respect for all who call our great state home, and I look forward to hitting the ground running on behalf of the People in the Senate.”
Jones served eight years in the House before winning the Senate District 35 seat last week. As Jones mentioned, he also included several economic aims in his “People’s Agenda” proposal for the 2021 Session.
Jones plans to reintroduce legislation he previously proposed in the House to provide tax incentives for businesses that offer jobs to college interns.
Businesses can qualify for the credit “or any income tax previously paid of $2,000 or less or for the amount of the wages previously paid to a degree-seeking student during their internship,” according to a Monday release on that proposal. The business would qualify if the student worked full time for at least nine weeks, the business employs at least 20% of college students who previously sought internships, and the interns attend a college recognized by the state’s university system.
Jones pitched the proposal as a part of the state’s COVID-19 recovery effort. He also pledged to work on rejuvenating small businesses and pushing for other workers to be retained amid ongoing economic uncertainty.