The proposal is by the Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity (OCEQI). The group’s executive director, Kyle Pierce, said their amendment would end qualified immunity for government employees like public university administrators, prosecutors and police officers.
“We have government not being held to account because it does have the qualified immunity and that degrades public trust,” Pierce said.
Qualified immunity protects government employees like police officers from civil suits for actions like inappropriate use of force — unless it can be clearly proven that the action was unconstitutional. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the proposal goes a step too far.
“They are trying to strip away protection from our police officers,” LaRose said. “To me I think this will be a very ugly thing if they’re successful.”
Pierce said the amendment would not hold individual officers liable in lawsuits.
“We respectfully disagree,” Pierce said. “We went into this with police in mind. In Ohio, we back our boys in blue we’re not out here to attack our officers, we are out here to have a government that’s accountable. The government is the target in this.”
The amendment would also make it so if a person wins a case against the government, a judge would order that either the state or its political subdivision take ‘reasonable measures to prevent a similar rights violation from recurring.’
“So over time, as people win their cases against the government, the systemic issues that enable these rights violations to occur over and over again will be corrected,” Pierce said.
LaRose said it is initiatives like this that enforce his belief the state constitution should be more difficult to amend.
“The big ‘for sale’ sign still hangs on our state constitution,” LaRose said. “The left wants to try and turn Ohio into California; I don’t think Ohioans want to see their brave law enforcement officers subjected to that sort of thing.”
The coalition does have an active political action fund but have not reported any money yet.
“It [getting an issue on the ballot] is not easy, there are roadblocks along the way, hurdles you have to overcome and rightfully so. It should not be the easiest thing in the world to put something on the ballot,” Pierce said. “We are a very broad coalition from all across the spectrum, this is not a partisan issue, this is not a political ideology issue. This is a fundamental American issue of having the government accountable to the people.”
Their goal is to get this amendment on 2024 ballots.