Incremental progress on fighting anti-disability hate crimes

Unity Brings Quick Action On Hate Crimes

California’s police training agency is about to take an important step to better train officers to recognize anti-disability hate crimes, the often-sadistic crimes known as the invisible hate crimes. The quick action by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) comes in response to a June 7 letter from 22 civil rights groups led by The Arc.

By July 15, POST will expand its online hate crime training course to include more information on how officers can recognize that a crime is a hate crime -– including extensive indicators of when a crime is an anti-disability hate crime. POST also will update its police academy curriculum to include the broad legal definition of the term “hate crime.”

The changes reflect Assembly Bill 1985 of 2018 by Assemblymember Philip Ting, which The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration sponsored along with Equality California.

The news came last week as Attorney General Xavier Becerra and legislative leaders released a video urging Californians to stand united against hate and report suspected hate crimes to their local law enforcement agencies. Becerra also issued a press release and links to other state hate crime resources.

Becerra’s actions, like POST’s, came at least partly in response to urging by the civil rights groups — and by 23 legislators led by Assemblymember Kansen Chu.

Crimes motivated by bias against people with disabilities are known as the invisible hate crimes because police officers rarely recognize them as hate crimes. Victims report an estimated 40,000 anti-disability hate crimes per year nationally, but law enforcement agencies report less than 100, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

In California in 2018, law enforcement agencies reported just seven anti-disability hate crimes.

The actions by POST and Becerra represent incremental progress in the fight against hate crimes. The major, culture-change progress –- for all hate crime victims, but especially for people with disabilities — will come when and if Becerra takes the sweeping actions requested by the legislators and the civil rights groups.

We’re waiting for Becerra’s response to the civil rights groups’ June 7 letter, but he did respond to the legislators’ May 1 letter. Unfortunately, his response omitted any references to the legislators’ and our major goal of getting all enforcement agencies to adopt formal protocol policies and training requirements that include recognizing hate crimes with special attention to anti-disability hate crimes as spelled out in AB 1985. We’re talking with Assembly Member Chu about how to proceed in this lack of response.

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