ÖYour nation is in the midst of unprecedented turmoil as the increasing abuse of minorities by law enforcement officials has exposed deep and systemic problems in our criminal justice system.

The murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis not only shed light on differences in judicial institutions, but also on how institutionalized racism perpetuates unequal justice for blacks and Latinos. Last month, St. Louis attorneys again declined to indict the Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown six years ago. The prosecutor told reporters at a press conference that he didn't think he could prove the case in court.

Too often, the legal rules for qualified immunity – and district attorneys like Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey – protect police officers who are sworn to protect and serve even as the death toll from police abuse increases.

Too often, the legal rules for qualified immunity – and district attorneys like Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey – protect police officers who are sworn to protect and serve even as the death toll from police abuse increases.

Jackie Lacey is currently embroiled in the battle of her political life as she faces a tough re-election campaign against challenger George Gascon. Protesters outraged by incidents of police brutality and abuse have demonstrated in both Lacey's office and at her home – and rightly so. In 2014, Lacey refused to prosecute two sheriff's MPs who shot an unarmed man. In their first version of the events, officials said they believed the man – Jose de la Trinidad – had a gun and shot him when he turned to face them for fear of their lives. A witness contradicted this testimony, saying the man was shot while his hands were raised. And the coroner's autopsy revealed that the man had been shot a total of seven times, five of them in the back.

In February 2014, Lacey allowed MPs to give a new version of the events. The man had "turned his upper body to the left" to explain the shots backwards. That gave Jackie Lacey coverage as a reason not to bring charges.

However, their decision not to prosecute MPs turned out to be costly. In 2015, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a $ 5.3 million settlement for the deceased's family. The family's lawyers said it was outrageous and a miscarriage of justice committed by prosecutors that Lacey decided against prosecuting the officers.

It turned out that the Los Angeles Police Protective League and Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs had endorsed Lacey when they were elected in 2012. These two organizations represent around 20,000 ordinary civil servants. In her March primary, more than $ 2.2 million came from law enforcement unions for her campaign. There is no reason to believe that these unions will not support them in November.

Another case in which the LAPD is involved highlights the inequalities in the treatment of police officers compared to civilians. Officer Frank Hernandez shot a man to death in 2010. It was the second time Hernandez shot a civilian on duty. In the first shooting in 2008, Officer Hernandez's actions warranted "administrative disapproval," but Hernandez was allowed to remain on duty. Two years later, Hernandez shot and killed a then drunk Guatemalan immigrant. Hernandez says the man lunged at him with a knife. During his civil murder trial, three civilian witnesses – a black woman and two Latinos – contradicted officer Hernandez. However, the jury believed that the version given by Officer Hernandez and again Hernandez was allowed to remain in the force. In June 2020, officer Frank Hernandez was arrested after beating a man in Boyle Heights with a cell phone camera.

However, any efforts to seek justice against officials, such as the family of a man killed by the sheriff's two deputies, in civil proceedings would be hampered by so-called qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects state and local law enforcement officers from financial liability for unconstitutional acts when the officer has acted “objectively appropriately”.

All of these – district attorneys who refuse to prosecute officers, police departments who refuse to fire bad officials, jurors who take the floor from officials about black and Latin American witnesses, and qualified immunity – are all flaws in a system that the Law enforcement has saved from being held accountable, criminal and civil matters. The only option for victims of police abuse is to appeal by filing civil lawsuits.

Supreme Court rulings to uphold the rights of civil servants have hampered the pursuit of justice for these families, and Congress must step in to help families of people killed under the duty of a police officer. SCOTUS recently declined to hear eight separate cases of qualified immunity being challenged, prompting Justice Sonia Sotomayor to complain in her disagreement that the courts have created "an absolute shield for law enforcement officers".

The solution is for Congress to override Supreme Court rulings granting police officers such broad “qualified immunity from police officers” because Leon Friedman stated, “In 1991, Congress passed a comprehensive new civil rights law no less than repealed five cases decided by the Supreme Court in 1989– –Decisions that severely restrict and restrict the rights of employees under federal anti-discrimination laws. "

W.We have yet to climb a steep hill, but it is encouraging to see the ongoing peaceful protests in cities across our state and country calling for social justice and police reform. This movement will not rest until more is done to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly under the law.

Luis Carrillo

Luis Carrillo is a founding partner of the Carrillo law firm in South Pasadena. For more than 40 years, Mr. Carrillo has pursued justice on behalf of residents of the community who have suffered civil rights violations due to law enforcement misconduct and on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse.

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