Del. Samirah to Ask Virginia House for Revote on Qualified Immunity

As a supporter of repealing qualified immunity, Samirah wants to strengthen the language of the legislation through amendments

Press Release / September 8, 2020

Contact: Andrew Fernandez, andrew@samirah4virginia.com

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In deep consideration of the systemic violence done to low-income families and Brown and Black life at the hands of law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, during today’s House of Delegates’ special session meeting, and under the House’s rules, Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah (D-86) will be motioning to reconsider HB 5013 for a floor vote. HB 5013 is a measure meant to repeal qualified immunity, a doctrine that often is used to protect officers from lawsuits against their violence that disproportionately falls on Brown and Black Virginians and low-income families. 

“Given that the momentum for repealing qualified immunity is at its highest at the moment, I believe that the Virginia House and Senate need to move forward with eliminating qualified immunity, immediately.”

As a supporter of repealing qualified immunity, Samirah wants to strengthen the language of the legislation through amendments that encourage divestment of funds away from law enforcement to be invested in Virginians’ public health, a budgetary policy approach proven to be more effective at increasing public safety. This is especially important given that HB 5013 got watered down during the course of committee work in the House.

“I believe that, upon repealing qualified immunity, localities should not be allowed to use any tax dollars collected by the Commonwealth from hard-working Virginians to make it easier for localities and their law enforcement officers to defend themselves against misconduct in the court of law.  Localities should not be allowed to participate in nor enjoy, now nor in the future, the benefits of insurance risk pool-sharing from being a part of self-insured group plans provided by the Virginia Division of Risk Management for the ~100,000 employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A locality that is unwilling to reform its policing systems should not be allowed to participate in the same insurance risk pool of a locality that is willing to reform its policing systems to become less violent towards Virginians. Virginia’s various levels of government, especially those that have safer law enforcement systems, should be given the chance to spend more on resolving Virginians’ mental health needs, food insecurities, family disputes, lack of affordable housing, high healthcare costs, decreasing education quality and many other public health needs proven to increase public safety.”

Removing qualified immunity without also preventing law enforcement agencies on a local level from utilizing, directly or indirectly, taxes collected from all Virginians to protect law enforcement in lawsuits only makes the systemic problems of policing at the local level worse, given the reduced potential for financial consequences in the form of hiked insurance costs from successful legal proceedings indicting law enforcement officers for poor policing practices,” highlighted Samirah. “Any law enforcement officer not under the state’s direct supervision should not be allowed to benefit from state-sponsored insurance plans to protect law enforcement in legal proceedings of any kind. I believe that localities that hire or elect law enforcement officers should face the full financial brunt of their poor policing systems without any assistance from the Commonwealth of Virginia whatsoever.”

Though the delegate stands in opposition to the current weakened language of HB 5013, he will not let his current opposition to the language prevent it from passing from the Virginia House to the Senate. 

“I believe that Virginians deserve the right to defend against law enforcement officers’ assaults on the civil liberties of Virginians. If the Virginia Senate amends and votes in favor of protecting working-families and Brown and Black lives from law enforcement officer violence, I will utilize the power of my deciding vote to introduce my proposed amendments. My amendments to strengthen the language of HB 5013 will, in such case, will be introduced in the negotiations to rectify differences between the Virginia House and Senate positions on the legislation.”

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