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McCutchen speaks out on police accountability

Phillies outfielder joins other sports figures to pen newspaper editorial
@ToddZolecki
June 2, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and other sports heavyweights on Tuesday called for police officers to be held accountable for their criminal actions as well as for an end to “qualified immunity.” McCutchen joined Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Super Bowl champion receiver Anquan

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and other sports heavyweights on Tuesday called for police officers to be held accountable for their criminal actions as well as for an end to “qualified immunity.”

McCutchen joined Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Super Bowl champion receiver Anquan Boldin and Saints linebacker Demario Davis in an editorial in USA Today. They shared their thoughts and ideas amid the backdrop of the latest killing of an unarmed African American, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, and the protests that have broken out across the country as a result.

“We cannot wait to change hearts and minds -- too many people will die while we try,” they 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.”

They wrote that police chiefs need the authority to get bad officers off the street. Officers caught using racial slurs, engaging in illegal searches and seizures, fabricating evidence and using severe and unlawful force should lose their badges immediately, they said. They cited a USA Today study last year that found that rarely happens, however.

“Among the greatest obstacles to cleaning up our police departments are police union contracts, which hamstring officials’ ability to fire officers who engage in bad and even deadly behavior,” they wrote. “In the rare case that a department pursues disciplinary action, many contracts require arbitration, which almost always results in reduced sanctions. In a survey of data compiled from 37 police departments in 2017, The Washington Post found that of 1,881 officers fired since 2006, 451 appealed and received their jobs back -- nearly 25%.”

They mentioned that Philadelphia’s mayor can negotiate the next police union contract next year.

“We must demand that our elected officials remove terms explicitly designed to protect officers from investigation and discipline if we are going to have accountability and safety,” they wrote.

McCutchen, Kerr, Popovich, Boldin and Davis also asked Congress to end “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from legal liability.

“Qualified immunity prevents harmed individuals from receiving compensation unless there is another case, already decided, that involved basically identical facts,” they 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.

“Like the list of bad officers who remained on the job, the list of officers who committed horrible atrocities but could not be held accountable in court fills volumes. Citizens face consequences for breaking the law and harming others; our government should make sure officers are no different.

“The two steps we have laid out -- getting bad officers off the street and ending qualified immunity -- are critically important. If we are going to achieve a safer future for our children, we need to implement them now. By doing so, we can prevent future carnage, and honor the lives of those we’ve lost.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .