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District Attorney Boudin Announces Expansion of Services, Including Victim Compensation, to Victims and Witnesses of Police Violence

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Rachel Marshall / (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org
Alex Bastian / (415) 314-4848 / Alex.Bastian@sfgov.org

San Francisco, CA — Today, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces a bold new policy directive to allow victims and witnesses of police violence to receive victims’ compensation.  This policy will ensure that people impacted by police violence will be able to qualify for resources like medical and mental health coverage and funeral and burial expenses.  It aims to fill a void in current California victims’ compensation laws that exclude victims of crimes who lack law enforcement officer corroboration of their victim status or who were perceived to have contributed to the violence.  To meet the needs of these victims, District Attorney Boudin is expanding his partnership with UCSF’s Trauma Recovery Center.

“Until now, victims and witnesses of police brutality have not only suffered from the breach of trust that occurs when those entrusted to keep our communities safe instead inflict violence, but also from the physical and emotional harm they incur as a result,” explained District Attorney Boudin.  “This policy rectifies that problem by providing an opportunity for support to those who are affected by law enforcement violence—including those hurt during lawful, peaceful protest— just as we would victims of other crimes.”

Funding for compensation will be provided by the District Attorney’s Office’s Victims Services Division, which will grant compensation for direct victims of law enforcement violence, as well as witnesses and loved ones of victims and peaceful protestors against police violence. 

The policy announcement comes during a time of national outrage and protest against police violence, particularly towards Black men.  In response to the outcry over the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and many other Black people by police officers, District Attorney Boudin has quickly implemented a series of reforms in recent days aimed at police accountability; prevention of police violence and racial biases by law enforcement; and protection of the public’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest.

Victims’ services advocates stressed the need for this new policy.  “The physical, emotional and psychological trauma of police brutality and violence breed anger and frustration,” explained Gena Castro Rodriguez, Chief of the District Attorney’s Office’s Victims’ Services Division. “When victims don’t secure justice and resources to help them recover it can affect their sense of safety and trust in the very systems meant to protect them. Providing financial assistance to help victims in rebuilding their lives is an important step in acknowledging the wrong and beginning the healing.”

California law typically requires corroboration for crime victims seeking compensation through a police report or other law enforcement documentation.  In cases involving police wrongdoing, where law enforcement officers themselves are the perpetrators of violence, officers are unlikely to provide documentation incriminating themselves and admitting to inflicting violence without justification.  As a result, it becomes nearly impossible for victims and witnesses of police violence—including police shootings—to obtain compensation for costs they incur as a result of police violence.  District Attorney Boudin’s new policy will close that gap and, when necessary, will allow corroboration through medical records and additional forms of documentation other than police reports.

In no way does the new policy limit the prosecution of legitimate cases of police resistance or obstruction.  The District Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute cases against those who resist or obstruct law enforcement officers acting lawfully.  Instead, this policy aims to provide resources to legitimate victims, witnesses, and family members of victims of police violence to enable the necessary healing and financial compensation they need to recover.

In addition to the new District Attorney policy directive, the District Attorney’s Office also announces that UCSF’s Trauma Recovery Center (“TRC”) will expand its capacity to serve victims of police violence, as well as family members that have lost loved ones at the hands of police. 

“The UCSF Trauma Recovery Center provides trauma focused, compassionate care to survivors of violent crime, especially those from underserved communities,” explained Dr. Sarah Metz, Director of the Division of Trauma Recovery Services and Chief Psychologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.  “This includes those who are survivors of violence due to racism, and to family members who have lost a loved one to institutionalized violence, including police brutality. We eliminate barriers to care and provide equitable, culturally humble, and just healing services.”

 “The justice system must ensure accountability, especially when those who have been given the responsibility of protecting the public betray that duty,” said Tinisch Hollins, California State Director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “It is also critical to prioritize the needs of all victims of violence. The healing of our communities requires ensuring all survivors of violence have immediate access to the care and support they need to address their trauma, regardless of who exacted that harm, rather than facing barriers to recovery.”

The Victim Services Division can be reached at (628) 652-4100 or at victimservices@sfgov.org.