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What American Rust Gets Wrong About Police Work

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In the pilot episode of “American Rust,” titled “The Mill,” cop Pete Novick (Jim True-Frost) gets a little physical with Billy (Alex Neustaedter), and Del immediately makes the decision to fire the cop. While it would certainly be wonderful if America were a country where corrupt police officers could easily be fired, actually making a decision to fire a police officer is much more difficult. In an editorial for the Washington Post by Daniel Oates, a former police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Aurora, Colo.; and Miami Beach, Fla. — Oates explains how difficult it is to fire even bad cops in every city he’s worked in. “

Much of the problem with firing police officers is related to what is known as “qualified immunity,” a term that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito defined in the Pearson v. Callahan case: “Qualified immunity balances two important interests — the The need to hold officials accountable when they irresponsibly exercise power, and the need to protect officials from harassment, distraction and liability when properly performing their duties.” According to a Cornell Law article, qualified immunity exempts the official from doing so at all being tried in court unless he violated a citizen’s constitutional rights, which means courts must resolve qualified immunity issues at the first opportunity they get in the case, which is why police officers become so rare impeached and Del should have had a lot more trouble firing Pete.



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