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Reparations for Police Killings

  • Jennifer M. Page


After a fatal police shooting, it is typical for city and police officials to view the family of the deceased through the lens of the law. If the family files a lawsuit, the city and police department consider it their legal right to defend themselves and to treat the plaintiffs as adversaries. However, reparations and the concept of “reparative justice” allow authorities to frame police killings in moral rather than legal terms. When a police officer kills a person who was not liable to this outcome, officials should offer monetary reparations, an apology, and other redress measures to the victim’s family. To make this argument, the article presents a philosophical account of non-liability hailing from self-defense theory that centers on the distinction between reasonableness and liability. Reparations provide a nonadversarial alternative to civil litigation after a non-liable person has been killed by a police officer. In cases where the officer nevertheless acted reasonably, “institutional agent-regret” rather than moral responsibility grounds the argument for reparations. Throughout the article, it is argued that there are distinct racial wrongs both when police kill a non-liable black person and when family members of a black victim are treated poorly by officials in the civil litigation process.



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Versions of this article were presented at the University of Connecticut’s Political Violence Workshop, the MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, the University of Iceland’s “Who’s Got The Power?” Conference, and the Political Philosophy Colloquium and CIS Annual Colloquium at the University of Zurich. The author is grateful for the comments received at all these venues, as well as to Aurélia Bardon, Leonard Feldman, Jessica Simes, and Marian Page. The financial support of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the University of Zurich’s Political Philosophy Chair made the numerous presentations of this article possible.



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Reparations for Police Killings

  • Jennifer M. Page


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