LYNCHBURG, Va. – Virginia’s NAACP state chapter is launching a campaign to end qualified immunity in the Commonwealth.
Reginald Herndon, president of Campbell County’s chapter, backs the idea saying the incident between Windsor police and a U.S. army officer hurts the relationship between police and citizens.
“We think this sets things back instead of forward,” said Herndon.
He believes one way to rekindle that bond is to eliminate qualified immunity.
“I think everyone needs to be held accountable, as well as being transparent. If we want to try and improve it, we have to be real with each other,” said Herndon.
However, Carrie Dungan, Lynchburg Police spokesperson, argues there are policies already in place without eliminating qualified immunity.
“Qualified immunity only applies to those instances for which a precedent has not already clearly been established. If there’s already a clearly established precedent and an officer violates it, they’re held accountable.”
Dungan said the immunity protects officers from being personally liable.
“This just allows them to make those split-second decisions for something that may later be determined is unconstitutional without worrying about being sued,” said Dungan.
She claimed lifting the protection would hurt communities where there’s already a struggle with officer recruitment and retention.
“Eliminating qualified immunity would make that 10 times worse. It would cause us to lose officers and it would also cause officers to decide not to join this profession,” said Dungan.
But Herndon wants to make sure an altercation like the one in Windsor is the last one.
“It’s very unfortunate, and I hope we can do things where it doesn’t happen again, it’s a one-and-done incident,” said Herndon.
Meanwhile, Virginia Delegate Jeff Bourne introduced House Bill 2045, calling for an end qualified immunity.