EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - U.S. Senator Mike Braun introduced a bill Tuesday based on law enforcement’s qualified immunity.
Senator Braun’s bill proposal addresses the controversial standard that gives police officers and other government officials protection from being sued for alleged misconduct.
Posey County Sheriff Tom Latham says his biggest issue was the Indiana senator going onto national media platforms saying law enforcement supported the proposed bill.
”On top of everything that’s taken place nationally, to even consider the thought of depleting the immunity and protection against, or for rather, law enforcement, is absurd,” Sheriff Latham said.
Sheriff Latham shares his thoughts after Senator Braun proposed the bill that would let qualified immunity be used as a defense, only if the officer’s conduct is already protected by law or a previous court ruling.
”The immunity statute doesn’t cover someone that has done something negligent, that has done something intentionally illegal,” Sheriff Latham said. “It covers the officer while they’re in the scope of their job based on the information that they have.”
The standard qualified immunity can be used to avoid lawsuits if the officer’s actions don’t violate laws or constitutional rights.
Sheriff Latham says the senator’s bill could almost certainly cause a “fear factor” for officers, causing potential clouded judgement in fear of retribution.
”There are police officers throughout this nation that have walked off the job,” Sheriff Latham said. “That are willing to throw out their passion and their heart to the side in fear of retribution for doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and doing what they held their right hand up to do.”
Sheriff Latham says he doesn’t believe the law enforcement system is broken, but a bill like this could lead to a shortage of deputies.
”A handful of officers throughout the United States have done illegal things and they should be held accountable,” Latham said. “And I promise you there’s not a police officer across this state or across this nation that wouldn’t agree with that. They should be held accountable, but it’s absurd to not only take away police agencies, but then if you maintain them, take away their protection in doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So I do question - where are we at in this nation and what are we thinking?”
After reaching out to Senator Braun for comment, his office sent the following statement: “Democrats have blocked any attempt for police reform, and I’m not going to push this bill further without input from law enforcement.”
Representatives also tell 14 News the senator will be meeting with law enforcement throughout July and August.