OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Victims of crime and their family members in Oakland who by law are supported by police and victim compensation programs are denied such assistance in disproportionate numbers by based on their race, according to a new grand jury report.
Released by the Alameda County Grand Jury on Monday, the report found that the Oakland Police Department had not given the attention or support required to comply with current compensation law and policy victims, resulting in racial disparities between those allowed and denied.
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For example, the report found that the OPD had not appointed a Victim Liaison Officer, even though this role had been mandated by state law since 2019. The report also found denials of rewards. depending on a victim’s cooperation with the police.
“Viewed against the backdrop of the extreme racial disparities in crime and victimization in Oakland, the general inattention to victims highlighted by our findings raises important questions of racial inequality in another aspect of the criminal justice system. The report says.
Entitled “Racial Inequities in Police Responses to Victims ‘Needs,” the report noted that over the past decades, victims’ rights have played an increased role in how the criminal justice system is assessed. In 2008, California voters approved the Marsy Law Victims’ Rights measure, creating the nation’s first Victims Compensation Board.
However, according to the report:
- Overall, black applicants received 42.2% of all victim compensation denials, while white applicants received 10.3%. Considered as a percentage of the applications submitted by each racial group, 26.8% of black applicants were rejected compared to 20.3% of white applicants. Over the five-year period, overall rejection rates for black applicants were consistently higher than for white applicants.
- Black victims of crime and their family members were more than twice as likely as white applicants to have their application refused for “lack of cooperation with law enforcement” (9.8% of black applicants against 4.7% of white applicants). Black applicants accounted for about 51.8% of all funding refusals for this reason, compared to 7.9% for white applicants.
- Disparities were also observed in denials based on “involvement in events leading to the crime”. Black applicants were almost twice as likely as white applicants to be rejected for this reason (7.1% of black applicants versus 3.9% of white applicants). Black applicants made up about 49.7% of all applicants who were turned down for this reason, compared to about 8.9% for white applicants.
Police information on victims ‘cooperation is used to determine how victims’ claims are handled, and the report found that there was little or no opportunity for claimants to provide relevant information, or resolve disagreements or misunderstandings between applicants and law enforcement.
“Individual racial prejudice … and systemic racial prejudice are more likely to be reflected in such subjective determinations, as compared to more objective reasons for denying victims’ compensation claims, such as filing a late claim or a claim for compensation for a crime that is not covered by the program. ”says the report.
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While state law requires that mitigating factors be taken into account when drawing conclusions about the cooperation of a victim or family member – such as age, physical condition, psychological state , cultural or language barriers or fear of reprisal – the report concluded a police report would take these considerations into account.
“On the contrary, a witness recounted the experience of an OPD officer interviewing a gunshot victim shortly after the crime. The victim was on a hospital stretcher in the hospital emergency room. In physical distress from the shooting and intoxicated, the victim did not want to speak to the officer, ”the report said. “The witness reported that such events can often lead to determinations of lack of cooperation, highlighting the need for more awareness training for law enforcement.
The report pointed to previous studies which indicated that survivors and family members did not always perceive that they were being treated fairly by the Oakland Police. More recently, a January 2020 study from the University of California at Berkeley found that the OPD is sorely lacking in practices and policies to support victims of crime and their family members, creating additional levels of crime. injustice to communities of color already plagued by the city’s highest rates of violence. .
The grand jury report said its focus was based on a complaint received from a citizen regarding racial disparities in the way support and assistance is provided to victims of the Oakland crime.
The report concluded that greater emphasis by the OPD and municipal officials on programs for victims could not only improve compliance with state mandates and progressive policing practices, but could also improve rates of abuse. arrest and closure of the department.
“Attention to these issues as part of a larger effort to tackle racial equity in law enforcement would likely improve community support for the police and be an important step in improving equity and equality in the criminal justice system, ”the report said.
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