Compensating Victims of Police Violence
22 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020 Last revised: 21 Jan 2021
Date Written: November 9, 2020
Victim compensation funds exist to help victims and their families during a traumatic time of crisis. These funds cover funeral expenses, medical expenses, and mental health treatment at a critical time. Yet to be eligible for victim compensation funds, the victim often must provide a police report that identifies the assailant as the perpetrator and the harmed party as the victim.
When the shooter is a police officer, then victims don’t have police reports that identify them as victims. Instead, law enforcement identify these witnesses and subjects of violence as contributory in order to protect police officers from liability. Families of victims of police violence must use their own resources or resort to GoFundMe pages for funeral and proper burial services.
Instead, victim compensation funds (VCF) should apply to victims of police shootings and their families. Legislatures and prosecutors should amend the VCF requirements to allow victims of police violence to apply and be considered for funds. Victims of police shootings are first and foremost victims. A legally innocent civilian who has been shot by the government is a victim, particularly in a deadly shooting where the government imposed the sentence of death without any process.
This essay unfolds in three sections: identifying police violence in the United States and the disparate impact on communities of color, identifying who qualifies as a victim for Victim Compensation Funds and why police violence victims have rarely received compensation, and finally highlighting ways that state legislators or District Attorneys can provide a path for victims of police violence to be eligible for consideration of funds. These paths to compensation are particularly necessary due to the expanded doctrine of qualified immunity that undermines Section 1983 litigation seeking compensation through a civil lawsuit. Institutional bias frequently subverts success on either criminal charges against law enforcement or civil rights compensation for victims. Neither the criminal justice system nor state actors sufficiently remedy the harms of a deadly police shooting. However, compensating these victims through the state victims rights funds may re-establish some sense of justice after police use of force. This essay focuses on how this limited relief can work toward making the victim and their family whole.
Keywords: police, victim, compensation, criminal, justice, shooting
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