Assembly Public Safety Committee Passes Leyva Bill Allowing Victims of Police Violence to Access Compensation

SB 299 Would Help Survivors Better Recover From Physical and Emotional Injuries Caused by Police

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Earlier today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved Senate Bill 299—also known as the “Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act”—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.  The Victim Compensation program is an important pathway for survivors to access critical support, as it can cover specific expenses related to crime, such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and counseling. 

“It is clearly wrong that—in order to receive support through the Victim Compensation program—police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for assistance when the injuries were sustained as a result of actions by police,” Senator Leyva said.  “SB 299 will help victims of police violence and their families heal by making sure that they receive fair access to the support and services they need.  I thank the members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee for recognizing the need to improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police.”

Jointly sponsored 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!, SB 299 eliminates existing eligibility restrictions that can prevent victims of police violence and their families from accessing needed support services.  Currently, the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) can deny applications if it determines that the victim’s involvement in the events gave rise to the application, giving significant 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 various reasons, including fear of retaliation or negative past interactions with law enforcement and, if the police officer committed the crime, it may be difficult to get a police report. CalVCB may use other evidence to establish that a crime occurred for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking, but other victims—such as those whose injuries resulted from police violence—are currently not afforded the same flexibility.

Under the “Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act”, 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 injured person committed a violent felony, personally killed or caused serious bodily injury to another person during the incident and, in cases involving people killed by police, if the deceased person caused serious bodily injury or death to another in the incident.  Current law also excludes individuals who are in prison or jail and individuals on probation or parole.

ACLU California Action, Brady Campaign, Brady Campaign California, California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice, California Catholic Conference, California for Safety and Justice, California Public Defenders Association (CPDA), California State Controller, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Initiate Justice, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Rubicon Programs, Smart Justice California, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have additionally joined in support of the rightful treatment of victims of police violence in accessing assistance from the CalVCB.