Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Renews Call for Independent Prosecutors for Police Shootings

September 22, 2016
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – In the wake of the police shootings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today renewed his call for Congress to pass the Police Training and Independent Review Act (H.R. 2302) to encourage states to use independent prosecutors to investigate police use of deadly force. Congressman Cohen spoke on the House floor today urging his colleagues to support the bill, which has been endorsed by the NAACP and Chicago Tribune, and has 97 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. You can watch that video here.

“I woke up Tuesday morning to the shocking video of Mr. Crutcher being shot to death by police while his hands were up and he was on his car,” said Congressman Cohen. “It’s one of the most shocking videos I’ve seen. At best it was gross negligence; at worst it was murder. This has been happening too often in the United States.”

“Even former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough agrees that independent prosecutors must be used in instances of police use of deadly force. I urge my Republican Colleagues, none of whom are on the bill, to follow Joe Scarborough’s lead, and support this issue. Congress must pass the Police Training and Independent Review Act to ensure police receive the appropriate training to understand different cultures and require independent prosecutors to investigate police use of deadly force. It is necessary for people to know that justice is indeed blind.”     

The Police Training and Independent Review Act would encourage states to use independent prosecutors to investigate and, if need be, prosecute instances of police use of deadly force. It would also encourage states to provide improved training for police officers.  The bill was introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01) (whose district includes Ferguson, MO).

The bill’s 97 cosponsors include Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA), civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), and House Dean and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI). 

This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough called for independent prosecutors in police deadly force cases. You can watch the segment here.

Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began requiring the use of an independent prosecutor for police killings.  See NY Times: Cuomo to Appoint Special Prosecutor for Killings by Police

Press coverage of the Police Training and Independent Review Act includes:

Chicago Tribune Editorial:

Police deadly force cases call for independent prosecutors

USA Today:

Lawmakers seek congressional hearing on police shootings

NBC News:

Tense Relations Between Cops, Prosecutors Fall Out From Freddie Gray Cases

Christian Science Monitor:

Would independent prosecutors make police shooting investigations fairer?

The Hill:

Calls mount for outside probes of police shootings

The New Republic:

Lawmakers are trying to fix what went wrong in the Tamir Rice case

UPI:

Democratic bill calling for independent reviews of fatal police shootings gaining support

The Hill:

House Dems: Use independent prosecutors for police shootings

ABC 7 Chicago (WLS-TV):

Deadly force dilemma: When should prosecutors step aside?

H.R. 2302 addresses a key recommendation included in President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing’s final report:  (See Action Item 2.2.3 inhttps://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/TaskForce_FinalReport.pdf -- on p. 21 of the final report): 

“2.2.3 Action Item:

The task force encour­ages policies that mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.

Strong systems and policies that encourage use of an independent prosecutor for reviewing police uses of force and for prosecution in cases of inappropriate deadly force and in-custody death will demonstrate the transparency to the public that can lead to mutual trust between community and law enforcement.”