As police violence continues against Ohioans, the Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity (OCTEQI) believes the only way to end police violence is to change policy. And the only way to change the policy that allows police violence is by putting a citizen-led initiative on a state ballot to end qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that allows public officials to escape consequences for unreasonable behavior even when they violate someone’s rights. It has become a barrier to justice for victims of police misconduct. 

The OCTEQI is a voice for the unheard democratic people who have lost their lives to police violence. Franklin County, for instance, has one of highest rates of fatal police shootings in Ohio and the U.S. Now is the time to end the systemic injustices that for decades have shielded law enforcement officers from responsibility when they have harmed civilians.

But Ohio Attorney General David Yost, a Republican, won’t allow OCTEQI’s ballot initiative – “Protecting Ohioans’ Constitutional Rights Amendment” – to come to a statewide vote. Yost has repeatedly rejected OCTEQI’s summary language which would allow the necessary signature collection of Ohio registered voters. It is the AG’s responsibility to stay neutral and judge without bias whether the summary of the actual text of an amendment to the Ohio Constitution is fair in its description of the actual amendment text. Yost has rejected OCTEQI’s summary language five times since the beginning of 2023.

The OCTEQI believes Yost is purposely blocking the amendment because he knows polling numbers are high showing support to end qualified immunity. According to a poll taken in April by Campaign Zero, EIghty-seven percent of Ohioans believe that officers should face consequences for violating a person’s rights, and 53% percent of Ohioans believe qualified immunity should be eliminated. The OCTEQI also believes Yost is compromised. He filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court arguing former President Trump should receive broad immunity from any criminal prosecution from seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

The OCTEQI is currently in a legal tussle with Yost in the Sixth District Court of Appeals after filing an emergency motion to get the court to step in because Yost is not playing fair by blocking their summary of the amendment. The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham, a Reagan appointee. The OCTEQI also filed an appeal with Ohio Supreme Court for expedited review of the AG’s rejection of the summary, but was denied, effectively ending any chance of the citizen initiative making the November 2024 ballot.

Initially introduced during the civil rights movement, qualified immunity was meant to protect law enforcement officials from frivolous lawsuits and financial liability when they acted in good faith in unclear legal situations.

Over time, however, courts increasingly applied the doctrine to cases involving excessive or deadly force by police, leading to criticism that it has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.

By ending qualified immunity, OCTEQI seeks to hold the state and its political subdivisions accountable for the conduct of their employees and ensure responsibility for any constitutional rights violations.

The OCTEQI has traveled statewide, physically collecting thousands of Ohioans’ registered voter signatures from over 50 counties. Their mission is to end qualified immunity, address systemic racism, inequality, and injustice, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the community.

Today, four states – Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York City – have completely banned police officers from using qualified immunity as a defense in state court.

 The OCTEQI’s efforts to end qualified immunity are crucial for promoting accountability, protecting constitutional rights, and ensuring that no one is above the law. Their work reflects a commitment to justice and the welfare of Ohioans.


Cynthia Brown is a spokesperson for The Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity.