By Jack Mayne

Burien Councilmembers on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, voted down a proposal to seek the ending of “qualified immunity” for police officers, a program that police nationally believe is a basic protection of their legal rights when involved in a criminal activity involving the use of force.

The change, if adopted by the Washington Legislature at its session in 2021, would change state law by asking Washington Legislature to end statewide the doctrine “qualified immunity for police officers in the state.”

‘Last minute’
The proposal to change state law change was made by Councilmember Cydney Moore “as a last minute addition” to the usual semi-annual request to state legislators. It was proposed and rejected at the Monday night regular Burien Council meeting.

The “qualified immunity doctrine” protects state and local police from individual officers being liable unless the officer violates a clearly established constitutional rights. Some police reform bills in Congress also consider eliminating qualified immunity for state and local police and correctional officers.

“Qualified immunity gives law enforcement officers blanket protections to unfortunately often commit atrocities against our people that they are not held responsible for at all,” Moore said. Burien people are seeing how heavy an “impact that can have on our people and a relationship with our law enforcement officers

Unconstitutional abuses?
Some experts say qualified immunity gives courts an out to avoid deciding whether police abuses were, in fact, unconstitutional — meaning courts are less likely to create that “clearly established law” necessary for future plaintiffs.

The doctrine of qualified immunity protects state and local officials from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right.

Congress is considering possible legislation to eliminate qualified immunity for state and local police and correctional officers. Some of the police reform bills Congress is considering eliminate qualified immunity for state and local police and correctional officers, says the National Conference of State Legislatures.

COVID Impact
City Manager Brian Wilson told Council it remains important to stay vigilant about COVID-19 during the winter months and asked Fire Chief Mike Marrs to brief the Council members.

Marrs said it was important for Burien residents to remain vigilant and to wear masks, wash hands frequently, get the normal flu shots and stay home when not feeling well.

And get tested, “we are not doing enough testing right now.” His message is not new, Marrs said, just a reminder because the predicted fall increase wave of the virus which he said are occurring.

Fewer gatherings
“We want fewer gathering of groups, even with people we know, especially in the high risk category,” Marrs said. “They are going to spread COVID-19. The safest action is to avoid in-person gatherings at this time. The more people we interact with and the longer that interaction is, the high risk of becoming infected is.” People 20 to 29 years old are the top spreaders now, Marrs said.

He said the next wave of the pandemic is coming and “we know these numbers of cases is higher right now” than it was at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Limit holiday guests
“Limit your guest list, make sure there is enough space for all guests who don’t live with you to stay at least six feet apart.”

Marrs said to avoid people with a fever or other symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 “in the last two weeks should just stay home and wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking.”

Matta said a friend of his passed away last week and another is in the hospital and recommended people “keep the mask on.”