Valena E. Beety

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Victims of police violence suffer physical trauma and their families suffer mental trauma “born from the violation of a certain social trust.” Their losses are also financial, including medical expenses and mental health treatment, as well as lost income. While scholars and citizens have advocated for accountability and justice, this is the first essay to advocate for the simple act of victims’ compensation for victims of police violence. To be considered for compensation, victims must first prove that they cooperated with law enforcement and were “innocent” of wrongdoing. Yet, victims of police violence are inordinately and openly blamed for their own injuries in police reports. In incidents of police violence, officers may be incentivized to evade accountability by reporting that the victim was contributorily at fault. If neither police nor prosecutors identify the people harmed as victims, then these injured people will not qualify for Victim Compensation Funds to pay for mental health treatment or medical care. This Essay explains Victim Compensation Funds, which are available in every state and U.S. territory, and why police violence victims rarely qualify for compensation. The Essay calls upon state legislators and district attorneys to make these victims eligible for consideration of funds, namely by eliminating the requirement of cooperation with law enforcement for victims of police violence and re-examining the “innocence” requirement.

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