MANCHESTER, N.H. (WHDH) - Two words in a Manchester police recruitment post are attracting more than just applicants. Now, some say they are upset by the wording used in the listing.
The post says, “the department offers many opportunities to advance and additional unique benefits including qualified immunity.”
After receiving complaints, the post was taken down. Chief Allen Aldenberg claimed full responsibility for it and admitted the wording was inappropriate.
“I recognize it was not appropriate and I am tuned in and cognizant of the response I got from people,” he said. “I’m not trying to say, ‘come work at the Manchester Police Department and you can do whatever you want.”
Though, Aldenberg said he believes qualified immunity is an important part of his profession.
“We’re somewhat naive if we don’t think that current police officers and potential police officers are tuned into the concept of qualified immunity,” he said.
Qualified immunity is a legal principle that protects public officials from civil suits that allege they violated another person’s rights.
Deborah Ramirez, a law professor at Northeastern University, said it has been a central part of police reform discussions and especially so since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Critics say it can give police officers free rein to use excessive force without being held accountable.
“The ad is correct, it is a good recruiting tool to say to anyone in that job, ‘No matter what you do, whether you commit a crime, put your knee on someone’s neck for nine minutes, you will not be held financially liable,” said Ramirez.
But, law enforcement officials say officers should be able to do their jobs without the fear of being sued.
“Let’s not disparage every police officer who acted appropriately in a split-second decision and should be afforded the appropriate protections because he acted in good faith, or she acted in good faith,” Aldenberg said.
There have been recent attempts at the state level to eliminate the doctrine and Aldenberg fears that should qualified immunity disappear, he will lose officers.
“We want to make sure there is a right to go to a courthouse if you believe your rights have been unjustly affected,” New Hampshire State Representative Paul Berch explained.
Berch proposed legislation that would eliminate qualified immunity as a defense in lawsuits against all public officials. The bill was tabled but he said the conversation continues — especially in light of posts like the one on the Manchester police department’s page.
“It was offensive to tell the public – we would like to hire you, and as a benefit to you, if we hire you, you’re going to be able to violate someone’s Constitutional rights with immunity,” Berch said. “That’s very troublesome.”
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