District Attorney Chesa Boudin said the state’s current victim compensation laws exclude people involved in instances of police violence because they aren’t typically recognized as victims by law enforcement. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

New policy means victims of police violence can get compensation

Victims of police brutality and their families will now be eligible for compensation to cover medical, mental health, funeral and burial costs, District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced Tuesday.

The new policy aims to fill a void in the state’s current victim compensation laws that excludes people involved in instances of police violence because they aren’t typically recognized as victims by law enforcement, according to Boudin.

“This policy will ensure that people who are impacted police violence will be able to qualify for resources like medical expenses, mental health support, and when necessary, funeral and burial expenses,” Boudin said. “The bottom line is that people should not have to rely on a GoFundMe page to have to pay for a funeral for their son or daughter when they’ve been killed by law enforcement.”

“People are left to fend for themselves because law enforcement rarely, if ever, writes a police report that lists the decedent or the person who was injured as a victim,” he said. “We need to find ways to identify victims even when the perpetrators are law enforcement officers.”

In addition to victims and their families, the new policy also extends to witnesses and peaceful protesters subjected to violence by law enforcement, Boudin said.

The expanded compensation will be administered by the District Attorney’s Office’s Victims Services Division, through a partnership with the University of California at San Francisco’s Trauma Recovery Center.

Victim Services Chief Dr. Gena Castro Rodriguez said the policy is about providing victims of police violence with the same resources afforded to other crime victims.

“We know that compensation is only one step in recovery, but it’s an important step, especially for people who are low-income and working class,” she said. “We’re hoping that the changes made in compensation today will allow people to use those funds to rebuild and heal from the incidents that have happened to them.”

The new compensation policy is part of a series of changes Boudin has made at his office within the last week in response to worldwide protests denouncing police violence against unarmed black people — sparked by the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Boudin, however, said prosecutors will still pursue legitimate cases of resisting arrest, officer assault and obstruction of violence.

The national organization Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice applauded Boudin’s efforts.

“I really do commend this effort and think it’s important we continue to push the margins for many reasons. Primarily because folks from black, brown and disenfranchised communities are not often acknowledged as victims. They’re often seen as complicit in their own victimization,” the organization’s California director Tinisch Hollins said. ”It’s important we center the needs of the victims, no matter who caused the harm and remove every possible barrier.”

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