Via America’s Lawyer: The Supreme Court may soon review how police officers use “qualified immunity” to get away with aggressive misconduct on the job. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to discuss. Plus, Amazon has distributed pre-produced material to local news stations across the country in its latest PR stunt following criticism of its mishandling of employee safety. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: The Supreme court might soon revisit whether legal immunity should be granted to police and all types of law enforcement who commit misconduct and who commit even murder on the job. RT’s Brigida Santos is here with me now to talk about that. Brigida, this you’ve been covering these immunity stories one after another. The, you know, the government wants to grant immunity to corporations that pollute, corporations that kill, and they’re doing it. They’re doing it by way of executive order from Trump. Tell me about the legal doctrine that gives police blanket immunity in misconduct cases.
Brigida Santos: Well, it’s called qualified immunity, which is a federal law that shields government officials from being sued for actions that they perform during their official duties. The Supreme Court sided with police decades ago by granting them qualified immunity, unless their behavior violated clearly established laws or constitutional rights. But now it’s undeniable. There are so many police killings of unarmed civilians. They’re often caught on video. Judges and scholars across both political aisles are now starting to question whether police should continue being shielded from nearly all accountability. Supreme Court justices are now reviewing over a dozen cases involving public officials in vocation of qualified immunity, which signals that the high court could soon be ready to change the rules. Now people were expecting to see something on the docket this week, but that has yet to happen. So we’re all watching anxiously.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. So just to give the viewers have some understanding, this qualified immunity means that if a policeman, a policeman almost has to rise to the occasion of intentional murder. It, even it even exceeds reckless abandon in the way that they conduct their job. You almost have to get to the equivalent of recklessness that might be the same as drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels, and then speeding through a school zone and hitting two children. Maybe you’re going to have, you maybe in court they’re going to be able to get past qualified immunity with that kind of case. But this just keeps, this just keeps feeding itself. I think, I think though, you might see a different Supreme Court analysis. Give, give some examples of cases, Brigida, where police invoked this qualified immunity defense. Just put it in perspective for us.
Brigida Santos: Yeah. Obviously there are way too many to list, but one of the most obvious cases in which qualified immunity should not have applied yet did is came from outside of Dallas where five officers fired 17 shots at a man who was riding a bicycle 100 yards away, after mistaking him for someone else. Well, that man died and the officers got off after invoking qualified immunity, even though their actions clearly violated the constitution. Now, in other cases, we see police shooting unarmed people in convenience stores or deploying tasers until a suspect is dead. So many cases, thousands of them.
Mike Papantonio: Hmm. Yeah. So here’s, so you hear that, you hear some discussion, well you know, you’re not going to sue the police officer anyway, you’re not. You’re going to sue the department who hired and trained the police officer and really blew it. But this qualified immunity as there, is that agent, that the policemen is an agent of that organization, whatever it is and so it flows right over to that organization. This is, this is a big obstacle for people who want to bring some sanity back to the way that, that some, and I got to, let me say this again. It’s not police departments everywhere. Obviously this, the, you know, you see these horrendous stories, it’s always the same, same background. Somebody who was under-trained somebody that on an MMPI personality test would have failed because of their anger issues and somebody who’s just way undereducated to be able to do the job that they’re asked to do. I mean, it’s, it’s always this constellation of the same thing for particular police officers, but it’s not all of them. The point is this, this is a way to reach out to all the police officers though and say, hey, you know what? You almost can do anything you want to. How do courts determine whether an officer should be granted qualified immunity?
Brigida Santos: Well, this is the interesting part. The court typically rules that an officer has qualified immunity after considering whether police used excessive force in violation of the fourth amendment. Now, if the answer is no, of course, they’re going to go ahead and immediately apply qualified immunity and grant that. But if the answer is yes, the court then determines whether the officer should have known that their actions violated the constitution based on whether there’s a legal precedent, establishing that those actions were illegal and if they do establish that the answer is yes, then it will go to trial. But since 2009, the Supreme Court has allowed lower courts to skip the part investigating whether officers knew that they were breaking the law in more than 50% of all cases.
Now, when it comes to the family of George Floyd, they might not see justice because there’s no legal precedent from the eighth circuit court of US, the US court of appeals or the Supreme Court establishing that it’s unconstitutional for an officer to kneel on a handcuffed man’s neck for an extended period of time. And of course, Mike, precedents can’t be established if the courts don’t properly look at these cases, which just creates this vicious cycle, that’s allowing officers to easily kill and hurt civilians with impunity.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. As amazing as it may sound, they use that, that method of, of detaining, detaining people is used all over the country. It’s training that they get just like the old chokehold that they used to train at. It’s the same thing. Let’s hope some good comes out of this, this disaster of, you know, of what we’re seeing with the Floyd case. I, I can’t help, but feel, first of all, they, they undercharged him. They charged him with third degree murder. I don’t understand that, he should have been charged with first degree murder. Thank you for joining me Brigida, okay.
Mike Papantonio: After facing backlash over safety protocols for its warehouse workers during the pandemic, Amazon’s been supplying news stations across the country with pre-produced material to get the online retailer back in our good graces. Joining me to talk about that is Farron Cousins. Okay. Farron, we’ve seen this happen before. Right? Government used to do this in the 1950s.
Farron Cousins: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: They would send out these videos they’re produced by the government. They’re all feel good. Everything’s perfect. Amazon’s doing it now. Amazon, look, this is a company that has a horrendous, horrendous history in the way that they treat their workers, pick it up from there.
Farron Cousins: Yeah. Amazon was facing a ton of backlash because even right before the pandemic, they were engaging in a lot of union busting and that’s when they had kind of crafted their plan, you and I had discussed on this program, we’re going to smear the guy who’s trying to start the union over in Long Island. Then the pandemic broke out and that same person they attempted to smear brought up the fact that we don’t have masks. There are no safety protocols. You’re forcing us to work, you know, right next to shoulder to shoulder, basically. There is no sanitation. The virus is spreading. We’ve seen it spread in warehouses.
Mike Papantonio: Six-hundred people.
Farron Cousins: Right.
Mike Papantonio: That’s the number, the last number I heard.
Farron Cousins: Right, and so they were just saying, do something, clean it up, protect us and that story went international. So Amazon understands, well now we’ve got a real problem and our advertisements that we’re making right now saying, hey, our stores or our, our warehouses are clean. Our workers are happy. That’s not enough. We’ve got to tap into the last outlet that people actually still trust and that’s local news.
Mike Papantonio: You know what I thought about when I saw this story? I mean, these, these boneheads that you’re seeing right here read exactly what was given to them by Amazon.
Farron Cousins: Word, for word.
Mike Papantonio: Word, for word. And what it reminds me of is when Kim Jong-un built a little, a little city, you know, for reporters to come to North Korea, it was like Pleasantville. It was like the Truman Show. Come here, this is how we treat our people. This is, this is an organization that treats humans one step, maybe one step above robots. You know, they don’t have the right to use the bathroom when they want to use, they have to pee in jars if they want to relieve themselves. Their quotas are impossible to keep up. With 600 people, got the virus. That’s the last number I saw. Then after all of that, after they’re paying these people to go in and put their families at risk, put themselves at risk from COVID-19, they take away the extra $2 that they were giving them for that.
Farron Cousins: The hazard pay.
Mike Papantonio: So this, this bumpkin, I mean, goes out, they produce a video that these bumpkins say, yeah, this is what Amazon really looks like. It looks like something produced by Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Everything’s beautiful. See how, they have testimonials. They have testimonials from their people.
Farron Cousins: Well, and when you’re the world’s richest man, they let you do it because Jeff Bezos could walk into any one of these local news stations and say, guess what, you all work for me now.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Farron Cousins: And that’s, what’s terrifying too. He already did it with Washington Post.
Mike Papantonio: Right, we, we’re buying you.
Farron Cousins: And he could do it with these groups. But here’s the thing, as I mentioned, this is the last group of news outlets that most Americans do trust. They don’t trust the cable news. They don’t trust social media news. But what they do trust is their local news because they think whatever these people say, this is a guy you could run into at the grocery store. You know, these are people, these are your neighbors reporting the news. You trust them.
Mike Papantonio: Right. It’s like Sinclair, right?
Farron Cousins: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Sinclair is anything but, you know, it’s all, it’s all prefab news that the, the ownership of Sinclair wants out there. What’s surprising to me about this, this was in one of the, one of the stations, MTVJ owned by NBC. You understand, there’s no question. The producers that give this information clearly know that this is produce, produced by Amazon as a feel good piece. They know Amazon advertises on their station. They know the advertising, the advertising dollars are huge. They don’t even disclose that when they tell the prefab story that Amazon produced for them, which is delusional, you know, completely fantasy story about how well their employees. There’s no disclosure here is there?
Farron Cousins: No, there is not and that’s part of the problem too. And it’s also with the producers, there’s an element of laziness in it too, because they know with each 30 minute program they’ve got 22 minutes they have to fill, 22 minutes. Well, Amazon just gave me four. So now I’m down to 18. That’s all I have to fill now. And they, they don’t disclose. They, they get lazy. They get caught up in this and Amazon is not the only group that has been doing this. As you mentioned, the US government has done this. Other corporations, pharmaceutical companies have done this tremendously.
Mike Papantonio: Masters, yeah.
Farron Cousins: We’ve covered that ad nauseam.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Farron Cousins: And so it really calls into question. We know, cable news is biased one way or the other, but I think the bias at the local level is far more than anyone understands.
Mike Papantonio: Awful. Farron, thanks for joining me. Okay.
Farron Cousins: Thank you.