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One day after defeat, House committee approves bill limiting qualified immunity for police officers

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -One day after a House of Delegates committee failed to advance a key criminal justice reform, the measure resurfaced.

And this time, a bill that would make it easier to sue law enforcement officers for violating an individual’s rights moved closer to becoming law.

The legislation would limit the qualified immunity, the legal doctrine which currently shields officers from lawsuits.

It would create a civil action in state law for the deprivation of rights.

“I hope that we will put in place something that will help people think about what they’re doing,” said Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County), “before they shoot people in the back.”

Opponents said the law would make it harder to recruit, and would encourage good officers to leave the force.

Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt County) said he had spoken with officers who oppose the measure.

“They’ve got many years of service,” Austin said. “They’re very dedicated to their profession, but this bill can be very devastating. And they’re not willing to jeopardize their livelihood and their homes in the event of a civil case.”

The impact each side argued, would be significant.

“The worst thing that can happen here is you’re second-guessing yourself all the time and in the back of your mind is I can always be sued,” said Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights).

" We went for eight and a half minutes. Someone was on George Floyd’s neck,”said Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond). “There should have been a second-guessing at that time.”

This time the bill passed on a vote 12 to 8. Now it’s headed for a vote in the full House.

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