Bedford Police Chief, attorney weigh in on eliminating qualified immunity

Local News

BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — Bedford Police Chief Todd Foreman knows some officers need to be held accountable.

“It’s wrong to violate someone’s constitutional rights. It’s wrong for an officer not to intervene when they should intervene,” he said. “And it’s wrong if the department allows an officer who’s taking bad actions and keeps them working there.”

But he already has trouble recruiting.

“Our officers in this area are probably, in Bedford and Bedford County, are probably the lowest paid in the region.”

He says ending qualified immunity and the threat of lawsuits would scare people away from law enforcement jobs, making recruitment harder.

“It does impose a lot of liability on police officers, police departments,” said Margaret Valois, an attorney whose law firm represents clients with cases against police.

She says right now, there’s a high bar that people have to meet, adding that the bill to roll back qualified immunity, which passed the House of Delegates, is needed.

“It makes citizens on a more even playing field with police officers, and that, I think, will give some comfort to the citizens as well.”

She points out that the new law would protect cops from frivolous lawsuits.

“Not only be penalized, but you’d have to pay the entity’s attorney’s fees as well, so there is something there strong enough to discourage very frivolous or unbased lawsuits.”

Foreman says there is a middle ground. He supports a bill making it easier to decertify police officers who were fired for misconduct.

“So they can’t go to another jurisdiction and be hired by the jurisdiction, because if they’re doing bad actions here, they’re probably going to do the same bad actions where they move to, so for us to be able to decertify them easier would help us.”

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