Levy: A common-sense middle on police reform, voting rights
By: Opinion, Steve Levy April 14, 2021
Two current hot topics that are dividing America exemplify how a common-sense middle ground is preferable to each side digging into their foxholes and refusing to look at the other side’s concerns.
Take the issue of police reform. Extremists on the left are promoting defunding the police and provisions that would hamper the police from protecting the innocent public from violent hoodlums.
On the other hand, there are those on the right who refuse to acknowledge that there’s ever a time where a civilian complaint is real and justified against a rogue officer.
Those seeking more transparency through the establishment of a civilian review board are on target. It doesn’t make sense to have the police investigating their own, just like it doesn’t make sense to have an attorney general investigate a president to whom he answers. An independent counsel provides a more impartial set of eyes. That’s what a civilian review board would do.
On the other hand, “police reform” advocates suggesting that police should lose “qualified immunity” are treading on dangerous territory. New York City just passed this crazy law. It basically will make officers civilly liable for decisions they make in the spur of the moment.
It’s certainly justifiable to be able to fire a police officer who acts in a grossly negligent manner. But if you now tell officers that they are going to have to pay personal damages and possibly lose their homes, you are setting the stage for those officers to be hesitant in protecting you in a crisis.
These officers are thrown into life-and-death situations where split second decisions are made. None of us are perfect, and to think that you could lose your entire life savings and the protections for your family if you make the wrong decision is ludicrous. It’s not only unfair to the officer, but it puts us all in danger. We don’t want those officers being hesitant when that split second decision might save our lives or their own.
And the ultimate irony: The lawmakers who removed immunity for the officers have absolute immunity themselves against civil claims for their actions and statements as elected officials. Only after they eliminate their own immunity should they be talking about removing those protections for our police officers.
Common sense should also apply to our voting system. The left is seeking to prohibit states from requiring voter identification at the polling place or when sending in a mail in ballot. How is that anti-fraud provision voter suppression? It’s insulting to suggest some demographic groups are incapable of showing ID, especially when it’s available at no cost and is needed for just about everything else in life.
On the other hand, there can be valid criticism against conservative lawmakers who refuse to take action to provide more polling places in various communities, especially minority precincts, where voters might have to wait on line for hours to cast a vote.
We should concentrate on eliminating these lines, not obscuring the issue by making false claims of racism when legitimate efforts are made to stop campaign operatives from electioneering by giving food or water to voters. The Georgia law, that was being deliberately distorted by the media, allows for election officials to hand out water, but rightly prohibits any gifts from a campaign worker.
Let’s use common sense.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County executive and a state assemblyman.