Bill that would’ve eliminated qualified immunity for police in Virginia rejected in House of Delegates

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, VA – JULY 25: Police in riot gear and shields block the street on July 25, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. Protesters in Richmond took to the streets to join other protesters around the country for the Stand With Portland rally in support of the Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Eze Amos/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia House of Delegates on Friday rejected a bill to eliminate qualified immunity for police, a legal defense that often prevents officers from facing civil lawsuits, just a day after the chamber narrowly advanced the measure.

The vote was 47-48, with 3 abstentions, including Virginia Beach Delegate Kelly Fowler.

The bill would’ve made it easier for citizens to sue police for misconduct, with supporters saying the legal bar is too high for law enforcement to be held accountable for misconduct and excessive force. 

However, the bill had major opposition, with Republicans arguing qualified immunity is necessary to protect officers who have to make split-second decisions in dangerous situations

Earlier this week, the bill was killed in committee but was revived with some changes on Tuesday. Del. Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond City), who introduced the bill, said the old version would’ve held employers liable for an officer’s actions while they were off-duty but in uniform. In the new version, he said that liability is no longer automatic. 

“This bill is much narrower at this point than it was when it was first introduced,” Bourne told 8News’ Jackie DeFusco. The proposal failed in the House on Friday with a 47-49 vote, with three senators abstaining.

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