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Virginia Senate Rejects End to Qualified Immunity for Police Officers

Man and woman standingin front of monument
Sen. Joe Morrissey (D - Richmond) sponsored a bill in the Virginia Senate that sought to end qualified immunity for police officers. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM)

The Virginia Senate's Judiciary Committee rejected a bill that would have allowed law enforcement officers to be sued for misconduct. The committee voted unanimously to kill the proposal on Wednesday, instead sending it for further study by a conference of the Virginia Bar Association.

Qualified immunity is a legal principle that shields Virginia police officers from civil lawsuits. Sen. Joe Morrissey’s (D- Richmond) bill would have done away with that protection - letting people sue police officers for excessive force or other constitutional violations. Morrissey noted that it would increase the state’s insurance premiums.

Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) said the issue is too complicated to deal with during a special session, and cited budgetary concerns: "I'm not sure we can responsibly add something to the budget that takes $2.6 million dollars a year out of the general fund.”

The issue of qualified immunity is also a priority for Democrats in the House. A  bill, sponsored by Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), passed a committee Wednesday along party lines.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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