PRESS RELEASE: January 3, 2022
Current Law Protects Citizens Rights And Conscientious Police Officers:
There has been considerable public discourse concerning liability related to police misconduct. Some have advanced the proposition that the so-called “Qualified Immunity” doctrine should be struck down. The Massachusetts Association For Professional Law Enforcement (MAPLE) maintains, that such action would be radical and reckless and would have significant deleterious effects on the police service and the public safety.
The Qualified Immunity doctrine extends limited civil liability to police officers whose actions are found to have violated an individual’s constitutional rights, provided the officers can offer a good faith defense for their actions. For example, officers would be protected if they took action against an individual, under the auspices of a state law, and a Federal court subsequently found the law unconstitutional; or if they acted within the legal scope of probable cause, yet charges against a defendant were not sustained. Removing this protection would subject officers to a standard of “strict civil liability” where no such defense for their actions could be offered.
Such a change in policy would inevitably produce a “chilling effect” over legitimate police activity, inevitably leading to a draw-back of police services and protection. It would also create significant impediments for attracting candidates of good judgement and likely lead to problems with officer retention.
MAPLE urges that the state legislature retain MGL Chapter 258 Section 9, the state’s “Qualified Immunity” statute in its entirety, because it offers appropriate protection against civil liability to officers, who act properly “within the scope of their duties”, yet withdraws this protection if they do not. We believe that this law strikes the proper balance between a citizen’s right to petition for damages, resulting from police misconduct, while at the same time protecting conscientious officers, who are forced to make split second, high-risk decisions, often under immense pressure.
Authorized by: Dennis J. Galvin President