California legislature is preparing to take up a bill that would make it easier for people harmed in encounters with police to receive monetary support from the California Victim Compensation Board. On Thursday (March 9), the California Senate set a hearing for March 28 to consider the proposal, SB 838, and determine how to move forward. As it stands, most claims in the state (aside from domestic violence or sexual assault cases) require that the claimant be identified as a victim in a police report in order to receive financial assistance following a traumatizing encounter. But, if the bill is passed, it would help families like that of Sean Monterrosa, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by a Vallejo Police officer on June 2, 2020.
“Unfortunately, because our loved ones were killed the way they were, you know, we’re not considered victims, they are not considered as victims. So, therefore, we’re continuing the cycles of trauma and harm,” his sister, Michelle Monterrosa, told Public News Service of the current laws. “The whole household is also a victim, you know — we’re the ones who deal with the loss every day.”
A similar bill, SB 299, was introduced in last year’s legislative session. The proposals prevent the state’s Victim Compensation Board from denying an application submitted by someone who suffered harm from police actions regardless of their involvement in a crime or failure to cooperate with law enforcement.
Families or survivors would be able to bolster their case with evidence other than a police report when they apply for the program. The fund provides assistance with burial costs, medical bills, and counseling, and the victim would be eligible to receive it regardless of whether the officer is arrested or convicted.
“Police brutality is not something new to San Francisco,” Michelle lamented to CNN in 2021. “Growing up in the public school system, our teachers would cancel classes to go to protests, to go to vigils. That’s really where our support for activism started at a really young age.”
Cristine Soto DeBerry, former chief of staff for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, oversaw a similar program on the local level and insisted that the system needs to be more flexible and compassionate toward everyday people. “We see families having to turn to GoFundMe pages and car washes to try and cover the cost of burying their loved one after an incident like this. And that, to us, seems inhumane and unnecessary,” she stated. “Supporting families through this process is a smart public safety strategy, and one that strengthens legitimacy rather than undermining it.”