Delegates in the House Committee on Appropriations voted against a bill Monday that removed qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, making them liable to lawsuits.
The Bill, HB 5013, sponsored by Del. Bourne (D-Richmond City), was defeated in Committee after failing to get enough votes to advance to the House floor.
In a brief explanation of the bill to the committee, Bourne argued that HB 5013 allowed victims and their families a proper time in court and made sure that bad actors did not escape repercussions for their actions.
“It’s qualified immunity so therefore gross negligence, complete abuse, that sort of thing, they do not fall under that, but by getting rid of the qualified immunity it becomes very much a murky line,” Del. Davis (R-Virginia Beach) said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “For me, the concern was you put law enforcement officers in a position where they become personally at risk, their family becomes personally and financially at risk and can be sued.
“We don’t need our officers walking into a situation that could very easily be life or death second guessing themselves with that grey line and potentially losing their life.”
Davis also said that other police reforms are necessary and more training needs to be provided for specific situations like someone in the middle of a mental health crisis, such as David-Marcus Peters who was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer in May 2018 while experiencing a mental episode.
Committee members voted along party lines except for Delegates David Bulova (D-Fairfax County) and David Reid (D-Loudoun County) who voted alongside Republican members against reporting the bill. The bill was defeated by a vote of 11-Y 11-N.
“Delegates Reid and Bulova have always been very open minded and I think voted to represent their communities which value our law enforcement officers a great deal, which is not mutually exclusive of believing there are other places for other types of reform,” Davis said.
Deputy Mike Imprevento, staff attorney for the Norfolk sheriff’s office and member of the Virginia trial lawyers association, spoke against the bill saying that it does not advance public safety and only helps plaintiffs and lawyers get rid of important procedural hurdles.
Princess Blanding, the sister of Marcus-David Peters, was one of two people who spoke to the committee in favor of the bill. Blading urged the committee to put people over profit and politics, and said that there is corruption in Virginia police departments and across the nation.
Currently, there are no bills in the Senate that would eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
– – –