The ice cream makers have yet again taken a public stance on a "divisive" political topic: police reform.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the co-founders of the ice cream company Ben & Jerry's, want to make it easier to sue cops who abuse their authority. During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, they announced their new campaign to end qualified immunity. Those who call for police reform believe this is a critical step in ensuring greater accountability within the policing system. Qualified immunity reform has received bipartisan support; Republicans including United State Representative Tom McClintock of California and Indiana Senator Mike Braun, as well as Democrats like Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, have extended their support for the move, CNN reports.
Qualified immunity is the Supreme Court mandate that protects law enforcement officers from being personally sued for any of the actions they perform while in the line of duty. This is what shields White police officers from accountability when they murder unarmed Black folks. Activist Shaun King and rapper Michael "Killer Mike" Render joined the conference on Tuesday, along with other reform advocates. Others have also endorsed the campaign, including NFL stars Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and more than 1,500 athletes and artists. 671 business leaders have also endorsed The Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.
Ben n Jerry’s said you will get this ice cream and you WILL learn about qualified immunity while you eat it!— Kevin Waters (@kwaters2008) November 27, 2020
"We are now united in a coalition that is resolved to end this get-out-of-jail-free card for bad cops," co-founder Cohen informed reporters during the virtual press conference. "It is now time to shift from protest to policy." Nonetheless, supporters of qualified immunity argue that the Supreme Court doctrine "protects officers from frivolous lawsuits." For instance, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president Larry Cosme wrote in a June letter, "Law enforcement needs qualified immunity in order to carry out their jobs. Law enforcement is required to make split-second decisions. Without qualified immunity, they may be hesitant to act when it is most needed."
Ben & Jerry’s are in the fight to end qualified immunity. The makers of chubby hubby are fighting for the people. You love to see it. https://t.co/ovPWcnZkYL— pls vaccinate me (@onekade) January 28, 2021
However, those in favor of police reform recognize the need to hold police accountable for their brash actions. Ex-police captain Sonia Pruitt, the former president of the Coalition of Black Police Officers who retired from the force last year, stated, "When police and police unions protect the worst in our ranks, we create divisions within our rank-and-file. After 28 years in policing, I can attest to the damage that this doctrine does to the public and the public trust." In order to gain the support of White conservatives, Killer Mike pointed out that unarmed White people also fall victim to bad policing: Tony Timpa, Justine Ruszczyk, and Daniel Shaver are only a few examples. He affirmed, "This is happening to poor White people too." It must be noted nevertheless that Black folks die at disproportional rates due to police brutality than their White counterparts.
Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's says businesses should lobby to overturn the Qualified Immunity Law that protects guilty police officers from being charged with murder. pic.twitter.com/MdPNn4irOT— Antar (@MarkGolden16) June 11, 2020
The Campaign to End Qualified Immunity hopes to raise awareness and educate citizens about qualified immunity, eventually building support for a federal mandate ending the controversial law. The campaign encourages the public to get in touch with their elected representatives and demand the repeal of qualified immunity. It also calls on them to write letters to media outlets to support such a measure. While most companies try to stay away from "divisive" political issues such as police brutality and gun violence, the opposite strategy has worked better for Ben & Jerry's. Cohen said in an interview with CNN, "Our experience has been that as the company takes more and more stands on various social or justice issues, we sell more and more ice cream. It didn't start out that way. That wasn't the purpose of us taking those stands, but that's what's happened."