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Virginia NAACP, local police clash over argument to end qualified immunity

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - December 2020 footage shows an incident in Windsor, Virginia.

A traffic stop of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has gone viral.

It shows Nazario being pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop, sparking reactions from around the state.

“We’re calling on the Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, to call a special session so we can finally end qualified immunity so that we can hold all officials accountable for their actions,” said Da’Quan Marcell Love, Virginia NAACP executive director.

Love says incidents like what happened in Windsor are an example of why qualified immunity needs to come to an end.

The principle gives police officers immunity from many civil lawsuits.

“I think that having a Black Army second lieutenant being pepper-sprayed at face-point when he had literally done nothing wrong and it’s captured all on tape - I think that is going to be pivotal,” said Love.

But not everyone is on board.

The Lynchburg Police Department says ending that principle would greatly impact things like recruitment and retention.

“That means less officers on the street. That means less officers being able to respond to critical incidents and even engaging in pro-active policing, so it’s absolutely something that we do not support,” said Carrie Dungan, community relations coordinator.

The Windsor Police Department says the officer who used the pepper spray has been fired, but the NAACP says it shouldn’t take a viral video to spark change.

“There shouldn’t have to be national outrage for there to be justice,” said Love. “There shouldn’t have to be federal lawsuits filed for there to be justice.”

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