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Families of fallen officers concerned about calls to reform qualified immunity

"We need to stand-up and have a voice for our officers."
Posted at 11:22 AM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 11:22:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The protests demanding police reforms may have simmered, but people continue to call for change.

The families of police officers, however, are asking for discussions before any decisions are made.

"We are the silent majority. We need to speak up and use our voices for law enforcement officers," Emilie Nimtz, who lost her husband Benjamin while he was on duty, said.

Benjamin died due to a crash on July 21, 2019, while serving with law enforcement in Florida. He was planning to move to Indiana to join Emilie and their two children. Since his death, Emilie has become an advocate for families and those in public safety.

"They go out daily knowing that they are going to see things they are going to carry for the rest of their lives and do it for the love of their community," Emilie said.

"We need to stand-up and have a voice for our officers," Greg Pitts told RTV6. Pitts lost his brother Rob when he was killed in the line of duty on May 4, 2018.

Both Greg and Emilie condemn what happened to George Floyd in Minnesota. But, both oppose the call to drop the qualified immunity, which protects officers from certain lawsuits.

"I realize that with any occupation, you will have one or two bad apples," Pitts said. "You can't deem a whole profession by what a few people do. The good officers doing their job every day don't agree with what these bad officers are doing."

"Whether you want to call it a reform or modification, you are taking away officers' ability to properly and safely do their jobs, and not just that, their family; you are asking them to risk the livelihood of their families at home," Emilie said.

In Tippecanoe County, the Lafayette Police Department is made up of 150 officers.

"I wouldn't want a bad police officer operating on our streets, whether it's my department or any other department," LPD Chief Patrick Flannelly said.

The Lafayette Police Chief wants to see more research on the impact of any potential changes to qualified immunity before there's a rush to judgment.

"How do we make adjustments to those where we can hold problem officers accountable to ensure we can maintain trust of our communities because that's the most important thing," Flannelly said.

"If people don't feel like they can trust their police department, then we will be fighting an uphill battle from day one," Flannelly said.

While politicians and protesters weigh-in, the families of Benjamin and Rob remember their sacrifice and their public service.

The Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police expressed concerns about changing immunity without having ever been involved in the discussions.

Indiana Sen. Mike Bruan did propose making changes to qualified immunity and withdrew his plan. His statement, in part, says:

"I'm not going to push this bill further without input from law enforcement."