“Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act” Clears Senate

SB 299 Would Help Survivors Access Vital Support Services

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

SACRAMENTO – The California State Senate today approved legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) which will remove unjust barriers faced by victims of police violence and other violent crimes in accessing California’s Victim Compensation program.  As an important pathway for survivors to access critical support, the Victim Compensation program can cover specific expenses related to crime, such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and counseling. 

“SB 299 is important legislation that will help victims of police violence heal and recover from injuries caused due to the actions of police,” Senator Leyva said.  “I appreciate the support of this measure on the Senate Floor—and throughout its legislative journey thus far—as it emphasizes that victims of police violence deserve fair access to the help they need. By helping victims of police violence and their families heal, SB 299 is a vital next step in rebuilding trust and instilling hope within communities across California.”

The ”Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act” removes current eligibility restrictions that can prevent victims of police violence and their families from accessing needed support services.  The California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) can currently deny applications if it determines that the victim’s involvement in the events gave rise to the application, giving considerable weight to the opinion of law enforcement. Survivors may be denied for noncooperation with police and—for most victims—CalVCB cannot approve an application for assistance without a police report.  People do not report crimes for several reasons, including fear of retaliation or negative past interactions with law enforcement and, if the police officer committed the crime, it may be very difficult to get a police report. For victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking, CalVCB may currently use other evidence to establish that a crime occurred, but other victims—such as those whose injuries resulted from police violence—are not offered the same flexibility.

Under SB 299, assistance would be available only when a survivor has no other avenue—such as insurance or Medi-Cal—for covering these costs.  There are also limits on how much can be paid for each crime related expense, and expenses must result directly from the crime.  The bill also excludes claims related to injuries caused by police if the deceased or injured person personally killed or caused serious bodily injury to another person during the incident.  Current law also excludes individuals who are in prison or jail and individuals on probation or parole.

Now advancing to the California State Assembly, the “Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act” is sponsored jointly by California State Controller Betty T. Yee, Californians for Safety and Justice, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, Prosecutors Alliance of California, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Youth ALIVE!.