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On 36-12 vote, Iowa Senate endorses ‘qualified immunity’ for law enforcement

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has passed a bill to give Iowa law enforcement, including prison guards and others in the judicial system, “qualified immunity” from most lawsuits. Senator Dan Dawson of Council Bluffs, a special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said it’s important to place this legal concept in state law, as congress considers changes at the federal level.

“We’re trying to conserve the current law of the land right now,” Dawson said, “because there’s a slew of political actors out there that have decided to make kicking law enforcement in their teeth a hobby every day.”

Senator Chris Cournoyer, a Republican from LeClaire, said the bill protects law enforcement acting “in good faith” in difficult situations.

“A responding officer in a high pressure situation cannot hesitate or deliberate the intentions of the law for fear of a frivolous lawsuit,” Cournoyer said. “To be clear, this bill does not protect negligence, incompetence or officers that knowingly violate the law.”

The bill passed with the votes of all Republicans and a few Democrats. Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids was among the dozen Democrats who opposed the bill.

“I don’t want to have a system that says we’re going to insulate people from liability when they have violated a constitutional right,” Hogg said.

The bill now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.

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