It’s a rare day when New York City does something that advances accountability and civil liberties, but the city council there did both when it approved a measure limited qualified immunity.

As Cato’s James Craven writes, the new measure will…

… allow citizens to sue police for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights. The bill awaits the signature of Mayor de Blasio, who has indicated support for the measure.

New York is the first city to pass legislation that would allow citizens to sue police officers for excessive force or unlawful searches and seizures without first overcoming the high hurdle of qualified immunity. The NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the United States, underscoring the wide reach of the landmark legislation.

That last point can’t be stressed enough. The various New York City police unions have long held tremendous power over city hall, so passage of this bill really is a very big deal.

The bill also includes provisions that hold departments accountable as well:

…[it] helps ensure victims of police misconduct have a complete remedy: if the officer isn’t able to pay for the damage caused, aggrieved individuals can also seek compensation from the officer’s employer. The bill also provides that prevailing plaintiffs may seek both attorney’s fees and punitive damages. It’s even possible to sue in equity: thus, if a police officer took a valuable keepsake while searching someone’s house, a person can sue to have the specific item returned instead of just the item’s monetary value.

That’s a big win for the Fourth Amendment, for government accountability, and individual rights.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (