The Instigator
sayvillees
Pro (for)
The Contender
That1User
Con (against)

The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Debate Round Forfeited
That1User has forfeited round #2.
Our system has not yet updated this debate. Please check back in a few minutes for more options.
Time Remaining
00days00hours00minutes00seconds
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/27/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 430 times Debate No: 103062
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (0)

 

sayvillees

Pro

Hello, I am literally placing my entire argument for an old National Speech and Debate Association LD topic here. The high school debate season is over and I'm interested in continuing practice. I look forward to replies.

Resolved: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". " Declaration of Independence, 1776

The United States of America was founded on these principles. They are the defining properties of this country. When these rights are violated people stand up and fight back. Chaos ensues when the individual liberties of Americans are under threat. Qualified immunity, referred to as QI for short, for police officers poses a direct threat to American principles. It holds police officers as a special class above the common man, allows for violence to be perpetrated against US citizens, especially of color, and makes individuals fearful of the very organization that is supposedly designed to protect them.

My value is justice, or, "to give every man what he is due" according to Aristotle. My criteria for judging this are preservation of individual rights and preservation of American ideals. This is why I must affirm the resolution: The United States ought to limit QI for police officers. "Limit" shall be defined as "to curtail or reduce in quantity or extent" according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. "QI" shall be defined by the Supreme Court in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982) as "QI is designed to shield government officials from actions "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.""

Yet what QI truly does is create the opportunity for law enforcement officers to abuse their power under the guise of not believing they are doing so, which cannot be proven either way. They strip American citizens of their inalienable rights and create a world where our country's founding has become irrelevant to its laws.

Contention 1: Under QI, police officers are not held to the same standard as other Americans. This is in direct conflict with American values and poses a threat to equality.
Subpoint A. The Declaration of Independence, which is at the very core of American ideals, makes clear that all men are created equal. The exact words, as stated before, are "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal."
Subpoint B. If police officers are held to a different standard than the common American, they are in a way above the law. They are no longer equal. Equal, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, is to be "like for each member of a group, class, or society." Logically, if it is possible to sue anyone but those few protected by QI for their actions, there are two separate standards. One for police officers, and one for the common man. This cannot be just, as each man is not receiving what he is due on a basis of equality.

Contention 2: American citizens have come to fear police officers as a result of QI. This prevents Americans from having the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Subpoint A. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are intrinsic parts of American society. The very Declaration of Independence, where this country became just that - a country - declares these truths to be self evident. Clearly then, the founding of this country is based upon these principles. The Bill of Rights was, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States, "what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference." Thomas Jefferson, being a founding father, is an excellent depiction of what American ideals are.
Subpoint B. American citizens often fear police officers. According to Politico, more than half of American mayors are worried about the safety of their black citizens. Certainly, if the top elected officials who have access to copious amounts of information regarding their local populations are worried for their minority citizens" safety, there is a good reason for that. As evidenced by: Polling done by Reuters, an international news agency, found that approximately 47% of Americans either do not trust or are unsure if they can trust police officers to be fair and just. Additionally, an even more shocking 57% of Americans believe that police officers unfairly target minorities. This is clear evidence that a large portion of Americans do not believe that police officers are protectors of society. That incites fear. The Black Lives Matter protests demonstrate that black Americans in particular feel afraid of police. The movement"s backlash is against police being able to get away without prosecution after harming, or more importantly, killing young black men. Although police officers claim that this is part of the job, it is often the case where there is evidence that police officers have in fact done harm and are not punished. Statistics courtesy of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and Health and the FBI/Uniform Crime Reporting Program and US Census Data say that black Americans are arrested at over twice the rate of white Americans for marijuana related charges, despite both races using the drug at about of same rate of 11% and 14% respectively. Such obvious targeting is sure to incite fear in minority communities.
Subpoint C. Fear of police officers threatens the rights to Life, Liberty, and Happiness. If American citizens fear for their lives at the hand of police, they are not adequately receiving their right to life. Additionally, unfair imprisonment threatens the right of liberty. Lastly, fear and happiness are in direct contradiction to one another. Therefore, if people are fearful of police they are not able to pursue happiness.
Subpoint D. Americans are especially fearful of police because they believe that they are above the law and are not prosecuted fairly, which I shall discuss in Contention III.

Contention 3: QI often prevents Americans from having any legal recourse when harm is done to them or a family member unjustifiably. And therefore, police officers are signaled that poor conduct is okay.
Subpoint A. The law does not always make the correct decision, and therefore civil litigation is necessary to hold police officers accountable. In the example of the Eric Garner case, where a black man was killed by the NYPD, only one officer of multiple involved was charged. As of today, none of the other officers involved in the death have been charged despite clear evidence that they were involved, according to NBC news. Other cases, like that of Michael Brown, where an unarmed man was shot by police, end with the officer not even being indicted, according to the New York Times. Because of cases like that of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, it is necessary for families to sue in order to receive some form of justice. If there is no criminal prosecution or civil prosecution of a perpetrator, the individual is not held accountable for their actions.
Subpoint B. When an individual is not held accountable to their actions there is nothing preventing them from doing them again. Not only on an individual basis, but as a group, when police officers are not held accountable to their actions it allows for a cycle of misconduct that cannot be corrected. A lack of negative feedback to the actions of police officers will implicitly encourage such behavior.

These are the reasons why I must affirm the resolution: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

Sources:
Declaration of Independence
http://www.politico.com... - Politico for statistics
http://blogs.reuters.com... - Reuters for statistics
Eric garner video
http://www.nbcnewyork.com... - Eric Garner
http://www.nytimes.com... - Michael Brown
https://www.washingtonpost.com... - Marijuana
That1User

Con

Pro's central thesis is "Qualified immunity violates the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness established by the Declaration of Independence, thus qualified immunity ought to be limited."

Why is the American government morally obligated to uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The only justification that Pro gives is the Declaration of Independence, a legally irrelevant document. The supreme law of America is the United States Constitution, not the Declaration, thus the Constitution should be prominent in any legal debate.

The United States is a Republic, a republic is a nation ruled by laws, and the supreme law is the United States Constitution. In our government, the ones who are tasked with the Constitutionality of laws is the Supreme Court of the United States, and in 1982 the Supreme Court created Qualified Immunity in Harlow v. Fitzgerald. Pro is advocating for the overturning of this Supreme Court based on it being antithetical to the values of the Declaration which has previously been proven irrelevant and has failed to prove why we should adhere to the Enlightenment values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I, however, advocate for Qualified Immunity because it was declared Constitutional and thus law by the Supreme Court.

Since the United States is a republic we live under the rule of law and this law must be enforced by law enforcement, also known as the police. The purpose of Qualified Immunity is so police can enforce the law more effectively without fear of legal charges, which ensures the safety of civilians in the majority of cases. https://leb.fbi.gov...

I hold that the legal precedent of Qualified Immunity should be upheld as it was declared Constitutional by the SCOTUS and helps law enforcement be more effective in protecting the people.
Debate Round No. 1
sayvillees

Pro

Before I go on let it be noted that my opponent failed to address any of my contentions directly. They also failed to address my second criteria for upholding justice, which was preservation of individual rights. We can see this as one of two things- my opponent accepts them as true, or that they don't have an argument to respond to each of them. Given that the character limit in this debate is 10,000, and my opponent used significantly less than that, these are the only reasonable conclusions. Therefore we must extend the following:

1. Under QI, police officers are not held to the same standard as other Americans. This is in direct conflict with American values and poses a threat to equality.
2. American citizens have come to fear police officers as a result of QI. This prevents Americans from having the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
3. QI often prevents Americans from having any legal recourse when harm is done to them or a family member unjustifiably. And therefore, police officers are signaled that poor conduct is okay.
4. One of the ways to achieve justice is through the protection of individual rights

Now to respond to the argument brought up by my opponent.

My opponent's attack on my argument appears to be that the United States has no moral obligation to uphold the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, the US Constitution is the status quo and we should keep it. The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. Since they haven't answered my earlier arguments as mentioned above, this must mean that my opponent is indeed advocating for a world where those three rights are violated constantly, whether that be their actual intention or not.

Let it be clear that I do not advocate for the protection of these rights simply because they are American, but because they are actually the rights all people ought to have.

Just because something is law does not mean it is good or should be kept that way. What I am trying to prove is that we must change the status quo. Slavery, segregation, Japanese internment, and the slaughter of Native Americans were all law at one point. What we ought to be doing is striving for progress, regardless of whether or not something is law. What Con argues in this debate is essentially that because it's law, we should keep it. This is circular reasoning. We cannot justify something simply because it exists.

The only other justification that my opponent provides for maintaining qualified immunity is that it helps police officers do their job. Well, if a police officer's job is to restrict people's rights, more specifically minorities, then yes, QI helps police officers do their job. My opponent provides no evidence that QI's intent is what actually occurs in practice. When a claim has no evidence to warrant it, it must be dropped. They only say what the goal of QI is. This has no impact on what the ballot should be in this debate. When discussing government action, consequences are of the utmost importance rather than intent.

I will now discuss these three rights. In John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, he discusses the rights afforded to all peoples on this planet. Among them he considers life, liberty, and property. We can consider happiness to be a vague but implicit inclusion in Locke's theory, as it is evident that when people have life, liberty, and property they will likely be well on their way to the pursuit of happiness. This Enlightenment based philosophy is a moral obligation on the government. The government is morally obligated to protect these rights. Since I have clearly proven that QI harms these rights, it would therefore stem that QI ought to be limited as to protect them. Secondly, these ideals are indeed intrinsically American. The Declaration of Independence, although not legally binding, laid a roadmap for what United States was supposed to be. It ascribed American ideals that served to protect all people. Just because it is not legally binding does not mean we need to totally ignore it.

To recap, my opponent's advocacy is that "...the legal precedent of Qualified Immunity should be upheld as it was declared Constitutional by the SCOTUS and helps law enforcement be more effective in protecting the people." This thesis uses circular reasoning and unsupported conclusions as justification. Its end result is the violation of intrinsic natural rights of all people. If we want to live in a world where these rights are protected, we must vote Pro.

Sources:
John Locke - https://www.gutenberg.org...
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 2
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by sayvillees 6 months ago
sayvillees
@SJM I'm reading a narrative because this was written for a lay circuit. There's plenty of warrants in there, it's just tailored for pretty language and persuasion rather than technicalities.
Posted by SJM 6 months ago
SJM
Why are you reading a narrative on your LD case?
This debate has 4 more rounds before the voting begins. If you want to receive email updates for this debate, click the Add to My Favorites link at the top of the page.