Editor,

I applaud Change SSF and Councilmember James Coleman for pressing the South San Francisco City Council to end the requirement to register bicycles to reduce unnecessary and potentially dangerous contacts between armed police officers and residents (“Social justice advocates call for policy changes” in the May 17 edition of the Daily Journal).

And this begs the question, “Why would we not seek to minimize any encounters with the police?” The police are among the few in our society with authority to harm people. Qualified immunity provides the police immunity from prosecution when they do harm or kill individuals. Are armed police, protected by qualified immunity, necessary for routine traffic stops, wellness checks, presence in schools?

It’s become clear that this immunity has facilitated reckless behavior costing innocent people their lives. I’m encouraged by the continued work of Change SSF and organizations like it that take the safety of citizens seriously and do something about it.

Arne Hurty

Burlingame

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(5) comments

Ray Fowler

Hello, Arne

You wrote, "Are armed police, protected by qualified immunity, necessary for routine traffic stops, wellness checks, presence in schools?"

What is a routine traffic stop?

Do wellness checks involve persons with weapons that can threaten others or harm themselves?

How many weapons... knives and firearms... do you believe find their way onto school campuses (including the public high school in your hometown)?

Do you think persons stopped for a traffic violation, acting in a way that can harm others or seeking revenge on a school campus will act differently if they know an unarmed police officer will be contacting them?

What is needed? More training and better tools for police to deescalate situations when harm may occur especially to innocent persons. That training and those tools cannot be made available if police are defunded.

Terence Y

Arne, I’d like to answer your question, “Why would we not seek to minimize any encounters with the police?” We would want to, which is why my dad, who has always been a fan of detective shows, always related what Baretta preaches, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Instead of being divisive and trying to shade all law enforcement as bad actors, why not educate people in being law abiding citizens?

SMPOA President

Qualified immunity does not make officers immune from prosecution and never has. There are plenty of examples in the news that prove that statement to be blatantly wrong. Qualified immunity protects all government employees, at every level, from civil lawsuits unless the case can be made that the employee acted beyond the scope of their duties and clearly violated the suing party’s civil rights. Qualified immunity in a civil case is not automatic, must meet certain thresholds and be approved by a judge before a public employee is granted qualified immunity in a civil lawsuit. Even if the employee is granted qualified immunity, the plaintiff may still be awarded a monetary judgement from the offending employee’s employer, which is normally what they are after since that is where the money is.

Currently, some activists are calling for the end of qualified immunity for peace officers and often mention in their rhetoric that officers are immune from criminal prosecution, which has never been the case. This letter to the editor proves that activists have succeeded in misleading the public and continue to press an agenda that has been a major factor in the climbing rate of violent crime.

Teachers have qualified immunity. Imagine trying to hire teachers in a climate where they got sued every time a parent did not agree with the grade their child was given for poor school work. Lawmakers at every level of government have qualified immunity. Do you think they would legislate that away for themselves? Of course not, why should they be personally liable for crafting and passing laws that are later found to be unconstitutional by a panel of judges who also enjoy qualified immunity? Now imagine yourself as a young person considering a career in law enforcement but having to consider the possibility of being personally sued every time you arrest a criminal and living with the possibility of your family suffering financially as the end result of a split-second decision you made in good faith during a tense, rapidly-evolving and probably impossible situation? Meanwhile, all the politicians you answer to create laws and policies that embolden and coddle criminals which further endangers the public you would be sworn to protect while never having to worry about being personally liablethemselves. I imagine you would choose another line of work. Now imagine the type of person who would volunteer to get into law enforcement without the limited protection of qualified immunity in place. What other judgement issues would that person have?!

Police officers are constantly placing themselves at risk of civil liability every time they respond to a 911 call. Qualified immunity strikes the proper balance between two important interests — the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction and liability when they perform their duties reasonably. Qualified immunity ensures that, as long as officers and all public employees are acting in accordance with the law, they will not be subjected to lawsuits for carrying out their duties as they seek to serve and keep our families and communities safe.

wlydecker

Thanks for pointing out that criminal cases not immune. The news media should be held responsible for spreading this disinformation. I recently read "Philip's Code: No News is Good News - to a Killer." it is a whistle blower about how news is gathered and distributed. I think the civil-criminal angle is so important i will repeat it.

Currently, some activists are calling for the end of qualified immunity for peace officers and often mention in their rhetoric that officers are immune from criminal prosecution, which has never been the case. This letter to the editor proves that activists have succeeded in misleading the public and continue to press an agenda that has been a major factor in the climbing rate of violent crime.

Terence Y

Thank you, SMPOA President, for setting the record straight and for highlighting the rising rate of violent crime. Just recently, the Major Cities Chiefs Association released their Violent Crime Survey – National Totals comparison and there was a considerable increase in homicides and aggravated assaults within the past two years. 32% more homicides in 2020 than in 2019 (8077 vs. 6087) and nearly 15% more aggravated assaults in 2020 than in 2019 (257,885 vs. 224,951). Granted, these numbers reflect major urban centers (yes, mostly Democrat governed cities) across the US. Let's hope 2021 tallies begin a downward trend.

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