John Oliver Examines History of Policing in America

John Oliver discusses the state of policing in the U.S. on the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, focusing on the systemic racism of the country and impact on law enforcement. Oliver, who has mostly been covering COVID-19 in his “Coronavirus” series of episodes, talks about issues such as police brutality, and the role lawmakers have played in worsening the issue.

In the episode, Oliver talks about issues with policing that have arisen from multiple aspects of the profession, including the way police forces have been trained. Oliver highlights particularly divisive police tactics, such as stop-and-frisk, which he says “essentially allow police officers to search people at random.” He also notes that the stop-and-frisk practice, used by the New York City Police Department, overwhelmingly target latino and black communities.

“[This] sort of aggressive policing was accompanied by constant calls to increase the number of police officers on the streets,” Oliver adds. He notes that both of the major political parties in the U.S. have advocated not only for more police, but more draconian police tactics.

Oliver also says that the problems with policing have been stoked by politicians at just about every level of governance. Oliver implicates everyone from “big city mayors” to the U.S. presidents sourced from both political parties over the past several decades.

One of the biggest problems that needs to be considered, according to Oliver, is that of police having what’s known as “qualified immunity.” Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine in U.S. federal law that “shields government officials from being held personally liable for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity, unless their actions violated ‘clearly established’ federal law or constitutional rights.” Qualified immunity, Oliver says, leads to a lack of punishment for the use of overtly assaultive police force.

“There is a chance that the Supreme Court decides to reconsider qualified immunity,” Oliver says, and adds that there’s even a current bill in congress aimed at abolishing the legal doctrine. But even if the bill passes, Oliver says, “it may have to wait for a new president to sign it, and we may not get one of those anywhere from the next four years to never.”

Feature Image: LastWeekTonight

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