Reparations for Police Violence



Police violence does lasting damage to communities that is not adequately acknowledged or addressed by the usual responses of local governments and the legal system. Civil lawsuits by private plaintiffs provide only the direct victims of police violence with opportunities to seek redress. Extensive procedural hurdles, limitations on liability, and few remedial options further limit their utility and leave bystanders sidelined. In the policy realm, efforts to create or revise police accountability mechanisms reflect the laudable goal of reducing the likelihood of future violence but fail to look back at the harm already done. Federal civil rights investigations and prosecutions of police officers are infrequent. None of these modalities repairs the damage to communities inflicted by police violence. Reparations, which can and should include creative remedies beyond monetary distributions, offer the possibility of doing so. From apologies and memorials to educational programs, communities should consider calling for responses to police violence outside of the typical lawsuits and investigations. Following extraordinary episodes of police violence in Chicago and Philadelphia, activists sought and won creative reparations schemes. These examples demonstrate that reparations offer a valuable tool for addressing harm to whole communities caused by police violence that may otherwise be ignored.

Suggested Reading

Black people who have been dispossessed of their land through violence and systemic racism—economic violence—cannot collectively be made whole merely through the ceremonial re-establishment of the Black Commons. . . . Proposals that advocate for reparations while failing to contemplate

As America responds to the renewed momentum in the fight for Black reparations, the country must grapple with how to address the full legacy of the land theft and displacement born from slavery.