Recently David French had some interesting ideas on creating “Bill of Rights Republicans.” They would replace law and order Republicans. We like Bill of Rights conservatives so we don’t need to associate with either party. It is an interesting idea and you should read the whole thing. There are four planks to David’s platform:
- End or substantially reform qualified immunity.
- Reform civil asset forfeiture and end “policing for profit.”
- Roll back “no-knock” raids.
- Rethink cash bail.
We want to discuss the crucial wording in the first one and why conservatives want to be careful about embracing the whole platform. We are absolutely on board with number two and three. There is a wide variety of conservatives but one thing that most of us agree on it that we are reluctant to tear down stuff. Yes, we know stuff is really vague but it is still true. One reason to be reluctant to join David’s group is that the Bill of Rights isn’t being trampled by police. The most serious problems in big cities and beyond lie elsewhere. Here is Jason L. Riley at the WSJ using Chicago as an example of big city problems:
The reality is that the carnage we witness in Chicago is what’s typical, law enforcement has next to nothing to do with black homicides, and the number of interactions between police and low-income blacks is driven by crime rates, not bias. According to the Sun-Times, there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.
David’s recommendations may help a few people a great deal but they won’t help any of the big problems in cities.
We think there is a big difference between end versus substantially reform qualified immunity. Qualified immunity prevents government workers like police officers from civil suits:
“government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
It seems likely that eliminating qualified immunity will lead to a plethora of law suits. We expect that teacher and school administrators to be a major target. There might be a way to reform qualified immunity so in an egregious case like George Floyd and Derek Chauvin there might be a place for a civil case. We should, however, be reminded that Derek has lost his job and faces substantial prison time. We only know from TV shows but it rings true with us that former police officers in prison will have a tough time. It appears that Derek will keep his pension. We will have a separate post on that later. Surely, if Derek wasn’t deterred by prison and the financial losses then the possibility of a civil suit would not be an influence either. So the only reasons for civil suits is to employ lawyers, possible financial compensation for the injured or heirs, and to harass government workers.
Neither is complete but the existing processes have worked in two very different cases in Minneapolis. This story form over a year ago tries to argue that the response to the killing of a white woman by a black police officer in Minneapolis of all places show the existence of racism. Some theories don’t stand up to the facts. In both cases the existing criminal processes seem to be working. As the woman’s family in the earlier case has received $20 million from the Minneapolis police we are unconvinced on the need to expand the legal opportunities to sue government workers.
We would generally be a bill of rights conservative. We just don’t see that it will do much for cities or minorities. If the GOP is to make political inroads in places like Minneapolis we would be disappointed if they did it with window dressing. The people these often misgoverned cities deserve political competition.