By Leah Timmerman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA- Two key state legislative criminal justice reform bills, SB 299 and SB 710—which expand victims’ rights, support police accountability, and promote fairness in the criminal justice system—were OK’d in the California State Senate Wednesday.
Both were highly praised by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a co-sponsor of both bills.
Senate Bill 299, authored by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), would ensure that victims of police violence are treated the same as all other victims of crime and be eligible for victim services and support.
This bill would also end the requirement that crime victims provide police reports or charging documents in order to access victim services and compensation.
DA Boudin’s reasons for co-sponsoring this bill stemmed from a policy his office implemented last June after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.
The policy implemented is very similar to SB 299 as it allows victims and witnesses of police violence to receive victim compensation. The policy ensured that people impacted by police violence will be able to qualify for resources like medical and mental health coverage and funeral and burial expenses.
The policy aimed 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.
In his original statement about the policy DA Boudin said, “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.
“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,” continued Boudin.
District Attorney Boudin cosponsored SB 299 as a way to expand access to victim services to police violence victims not just in San Francisco but to the whole state of California.
“All crime victims and survivors in California should be eligible to receive services and care, regardless of who committed the harm against them,” said Boudin.
He added, “We must promote healing for victims of police violence, and all victims who experience violence or trauma. I am proud to co-sponsor Senate Bill 299 to expand victims’ rights and will continue to advocate for the rights of victims in the Legislature.”
Senate Bill 710, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would “cure the conflict” that exists when prosecutors decide whether to prosecute law enforcement officers who are reported to have committed crimes and some of those prosecutors accept campaign donations from those same officers’ law enforcement unions.
Under SB 710, prosecutors at all levels who receive donations from police unions would be required to recuse themselves from investigations, charging decisions, and prosecutions involving law enforcement personnel.
District Attorney Boudin argued, “Prosecutors’ decisions about whether to file charges against officers must be made fairly, impartially, and free from the influence of law enforcement unions.”
Boudin maintained, “SB 710 will help restore public trust in the integrity of our legal system by ensuring that prosecutors’ decisions are not influenced by campaign contributions and that there is not even an appearance of bias on the part of the prosecutor making critical decisions in cases involving law enforcement.”
Supporters of both bills hope they will promote fairness in the criminal justice system.
The Prosecutors Alliance of California, the main supporter of SB 710 and a group that DA Boudin co-founded, explained the bill can “protect the integrity of the prosecutorial function, the fair administration of justice, and restore public trust in law enforcement. ”
The SB 299 support coalition noted, “For too long, these survivors have been revictimized by a justice system that ignored their trauma and pain. By ensuring they and their families have access to the supportive services they urgently need to heal, we can enhance health, safety, and justice for all.”
SB 299 and SB 710 now go to the California State Assembly where they must each be passed, and then signed by the governor, to be enacted into law.
Leah Timmerman is a 4th year Political Science and American Studies major at UC Davis. She is originally from Los Angeles, California.
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