By Senator Paul Davis
Good day. My name is Paul Davis and I am the State Senator from Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Somerset counties; parts of the last two. I am a veteran of the Maine State Police; nearly twenty-three years’ service.
I was recently pleased to see the results of a poll that was conducted in the last few weeks showing that 8 in 10 Mainers have a positive view of law enforcement and of police officers in general. This same poll showed that 88% of Mainers feel that addressing the current shortage of officers in our state is a priority the Legislature should address.
I am very proud of my career in service to the State of Maine and of the others and their service to the people of our state. This is why I am so disappointed at the amount of legislation in the current Legislature that seem to target Maine’s law enforcement officers, as if there was some sort of a rampant misconduct crisis going on.
Specifically, the bill to eliminate what we call “qualified immunity.” This bill is the most dangerous and most short-sighted proposal I have seen in a long time. I have to say that if the Legislature had chosen to remove qualified immunity from police officers during my time as a police officer, I would not have remained in law enforcement.
In short, qualified immunity says that if you are a government official doing your job properly, following the rules, following the constitution, you cannot be sued for monetary damages as a result of something that may occur in the line of duty. It is clear to those who do this work in Maine that a large percentage of our law enforcement personnel will leave the profession if this bill becomes law. The financial risk would become too great. Too great for those who already give far more than they’re required.
Specifically, qualified immunity shields officials in state and local governments, such as police officers, school teachers, judges, social workers, even Legislators from being sued by someone claiming that one of these officials violated their rights, except in cases where they violated a “clearly established natural, legal, or constitutional right.” This whole idea if it comes into being, would have a very disastrous impact on the profession and on the safety of the people of Maine.
In all my time as a State Trooper and since, I never once met a police officer who got rich doing their job. They risk their lives to keep others safe, and here in Maine they are doing an excellent job. This is evidenced by the fact that our crime rate is among the lowest in the United States. Passing this law and exposing them to costly and frivolous lawsuits would be asking too much.
Sadly, folks, my last call as a State Trooper was to visit the family of a fellow Trooper who had been killed in the line of duty. I was to inform the family of this. That night, that was a long drive and not a welcome assignment. There are not a lot of other professions where this kind of thing occurs and it shows the seriousness of the kind of work law enforcement requires.
I want to ask my friends and colleagues in the Legislature take heed of the wide and strong support that Maine people give to law enforcement, and to act accordingly and to vote accordingly this legislative session.
Again, my name Paul Davis. Have a great weekend.