Journal of Law and Policy


Kathleen Giunta


The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and ongoing reports of police brutality around the United States sparked extensive debate over qualified immunity and the legal protections that prevent police accountability. Individuals experiencing mental health crises are especially vulnerable to police violence, since police officers lack the requisite skills and knowledge to provide effective crisis support during mental health emergencies. Although the state-created danger doctrine was created by the courts as an exception to qualified immunity, it is so rarely applied that individuals harmed or even killed by police are left without legal remedy. This Note explores qualified immunity and the state-created danger doctrine as they currently exist. In addition, this Note describes the current crisis intervention techniques taught to police officers around the United States, which are highly variable from district to district and require officers to serve medical assessment roles that they are ill-equipped for. Since qualified immunity is rooted in long-standing case precedent, and the state-created danger doctrine rarely applies to those in the midst of a mental health crisis, this Note calls for widespread implementation of alternative crisis intervention. Alternative crisis intervention would protect individuals before a deadly encounter with police occurs. Further, 9-1-1 operators should be separated from police departments, to enable the appropriate dispatch of mental health support in emergency situations and further mitigate the chance for police violence, protecting civilians from ever falling victim to the state-created danger “snake pit.”