When it comes to Section 1983 qualified immunity cops get an added layer of protection that enables them to go about their business without fear of getting sued all the time. So even if a police officer engages in unconstitutional conduct that cop won't be liable unless his or her conduct was so unreasonable that other cops would have known it was wrong.
Yesterday a federal court dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity a Section 1983 lawsuit against the LAPD that arose out of a police deadly force confrontation with a former college football player in West Los Angeles.
Just as Section 1983 qualified immunity can shield cops from liability in questionable judgement call situations, changes in the law following the 2009 Pearson v. Callahan decision can shield courts from making tough judicial calls on the scope of constitutional rights being protected and vindicated by Section 1983 in the first place.
As Section 1983 scholar Professor Karen Blum notes in a recent law review article Qualified Immunity: Further Developments in the Post-Pearson Era "Given the clear prevalence of cases in which courts are now opting to dispose of qualified immunity on the second prong, there is no doubt that courts will be establishing fewer rights than when they are forced to resolve the merits through the mandated two-step approach of Saucier."