Congressman Cohen Introduces Bill Ensuring Law Enforcement Employers are Liable for Civil Rights Violations

July 29, 2020
Press Release
Bill would enhance accountability for cities and departments for their police officers’ abuse of power

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today introduced the Civil Rights Enhancement and Law Enforcement Accountability Improvement Act. The measure would explicitly provide that an employer of a law enforcement officer is vicariously liable for officers’ acts or omissions committed within the scope of their employment that deprive people of their constitutional rights.  Municipalities would be liable to the same extent as private employers under state law.

The measure would also prohibit an employer from asserting a claim of immunity for the acts of an employee in such cases.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Too often cities and police departments look away from officer misconduct.  The Civil Rights Enhancement and Law Enforcement Accountability Improvement Act would make law enforcement agencies liable for their employees’ unconstitutional conduct, creating a powerful incentive to fully and properly train their officers, enforce agency policies, and create new systems to prevent misconduct and protect citizens’ rights. We have long held private employers vicariously liable for their employees’ tortious conduct, and law enforcement employers should be held to the same standard when their officers deprive individuals of their constitutional rights.”