How should police be held accountable in order to actually trigger change? That was one of the topics addressed by Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a USA Today piece co-authored by Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, former NFL Pro Bowler and co-founder of the Player Coalition Anquan Boldin, and New Orleans Saints LB Demario Davis.
"The coronavirus has taught the nation how fragile life is. We all feel deeply the impermanence of our world and realize that the people we cling to for security, stability and for love can disappear in a single moment," the piece began.
"But this realization has long been apparent to Black America, as they’ve watched law enforcement unjustly take the lives of black people for decades, ending futures in an instant. The examples could fill the pages of this news site.
"... And in the past few weeks, these examples have come at hyperspeed."
Accountability was a major theme in the op-ed.
"We cannot wait to change hearts and minds — too many people will die while we try," the authors wrote. "We need to transform American policing now. We need changes that will actually alter behavior, prevent officers from harming people with impunity, and allow officials to hold officers and departments accountable when they do.
"First, police chiefs need to have the ability to get bad officers off the street. When officers are caught using racial slurs, engaging in illegal searches and seizures, fabricating evidence or using severe, unlawful force, they should lose their badges, and lose them immediately. But they don't. A USA TODAY investigation last year found a widespread failure to track problem officers whose testimony had helped charge and imprison thousands of people."
The piece calls for Congress to put an end to "qualified immunity," which shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions within their official capacity unless their actions violate clearly established federal law or constitutional rights.
"Qualified immunity prevents harmed individuals from receiving compensation unless there is another case, already decided, that involved basically identical facts," McCutchen et al wrote. "The likelihood of this type of similarity between acts of wrongdoing is scant at best. Without it, qualified immunity completely shields officers from civil consequences for their illegal acts.
"When we watch people like George Floyd or Eric Garner get choked to death, it is hard to be filled with anything but the utmost despair. But our anger and frustration will not stop police violence. There are meaningful changes that would allow us to police these officers, not just the other way around. We must ensure that victimizing our fellow citizens brings real consequences."
Check out the full piece for more of the conversation.