The Spectator

American police should not be above the law

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In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, a black entrepreneur had his bar destroyed before he even had a chance to open its doors for the first time. In Richmond, Virginia, a mob set light to a building, then blocked firefighters who were trying to save a child from the flames (-thankfully the child survived). These actions, repeated in cities all over America, are harmful in two ways: night after night, rioters are trashing their own backyard, destroying private property and putting innocent lives at risk. They are also diverting attention away from the legitimate grievances of peaceful protestors, whose efforts are far more laudable than looting.

America’s law-and-order system makes it all too easy to indict and imprison people for the most minor offences while police officers enjoy protection from their own often blatant excesses of force. The officer accused of killing Floyd by pushing his knee into his neck, even though he was already handcuffed, has been charged with murder after protests sprang up around the country to demand accountability from the Minneapolis police force. Only this week were charges brought against his colleagues, who stood around watching as Floyd’s life was snuffed out before them.

The US system means police ­officers enjoy protection from their own blatant excesses of force

If officers are even brought to court, they are often acquitted through a device known as ‘qualified immunity’, which requires victims of police brutality to prove that the officer’s actions violated rights which have been established in previous case law by the Supreme Court. It is an invitation for clever lawyers to dream up technicalities on which to acquit police officers. In one case last November, an officer was acquitted after he allowed his police dog to bite a suspect who had sat on the ground and raised his hands: case law could only show that it was unconstitutional to set a police dog upon someone who had surrendered by lying down with his hands by his side.

Qualified immunity has helped to foster elements of recklessness all over America in police forces which, needless to say, are armed to the hilt.

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