WMU-Cooley Law Review Symposium Discusses Qualified Immunity and Police Reform

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Law Review took an in-depth look at qualified immunity and police reform during its annual symposium on March 18.

The virtual symposium featured guest speaker Eli Savit, civil rights attorney and Washtenaw County Prosecutor who leads the city of Detroit’s criminal justice reform work, and panelists: Harold Love, a retired Michigan State Police captain and commander of its Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division after serving 25 years; WMU-Cooley Professor Lewis Langham; and Marla Mitchell-Cichon, WMU-Cooley distinguished professor emeritus and counsel to the law school’s Innocence Project. WMU-Cooley Professor Anthony Flores moderated the event.

During the symposium, panelists discussed how qualified immunity balances the need to hold public officials accountable, while at the same time providing protections from liability when officials perform their duties reasonably.

“What qualified immunity is really doing is addressing the problem at the back end when we need to solve the problem on the front end,” said Mitchell-Cichon, director of WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project. “In my work that I do, we are actually seeing the misconduct and it's affecting an innocent person's life."

“You hear about these calls to abolish qualified immunity all the time,” Savit said. “This is a judicially created doctrine – it can be changed. All of this stems from the statute that Congress passed back in 1871. If Congress wants to add to that statute a standard that – either reinstates a more modest qualified immunity doctrine or get rid of qualified immunity all together – it can always do that. This isn’t something that’s constitutional; it was part of something that was judicially created as part of an interpretation of a statute, and so Congress can always override it.”

Additionally, the symposium reviewed the recent call for police reforms following the 2020 death of George of Floyd.

“Policing is a profession that is very hard to understand,” Love said to attendees. “You have to be it to get it. There's so much involved in the job of a police officer that you literally cannot explain it to someone.”

“One of the things I do when training police cadets at the Michigan Police Academy, is take full advantage to talk about implicit bias and civil rights,” Langham said. “We try to train cadets in the beginning stage. I tell them, 'You need to make a decision. You know what the right thing is to do. You know what the legal thing is to do. You have just as much police authority as your supervisor - they may have more rank, but no more police authority.”

Mar 25 2021


WMU-Cooley Law School
300 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933 
(517) 371-5140

Click here for a full sitemap

Click here for Consumer Information
(ABA-Required Disclosures)

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School is an independent, private, non-profit educational institution affiliated with Western Michigan University. The affiliation between WMU and WMU-Cooley, which are legally and financially independent institutions, will end on or before November 5, 2023. As an independent institution, the Law School is solely responsible for its academic program. Accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. 

Read non-discrimination policy

If you encounter accessibility barriers while on our website, please notify our Accessibility Office using the Inaccessible Content Notification Form.

WMU Cooley Logo
In corde hominum est anima legis.

© 2021 WMU Cooley Law School