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    Hate Crimes in California Jump – What We Can Do About It

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    June is the month when we celebrate Pride, love and our common humanity. However, this past Pride Month also saw brutal, horrific attacks against members of the LGBTQ community. On June 9, globally recognized LGBTQ human rights activist Scott Long was walking down a street in Oakland when he felt a blow to the back of his head, followed by repeated strikes that broke his jaw and other facial bones.

    On the same day in San Francisco, Tim Tait, otherwise known as the drag queen Ginger Snap, was walking in South of Market when he was also struck in the head, kicked and punched. He sustained two black eyes, a broken tooth and a concussion.

    While to you and me these attacks sound like hate crimes, they are not always categorized as such. A hate crime is defined by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) as one targeting people because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Because California law does not require law enforcement agencies to have a hate crimes policy, the reporting of those incidents is inconsistent and leads to inaccurate data.

    California state auditors recently found that 14% of hate crimes go unreported. Even more disturbingly, Attorney General Xavier Becerra found that hate crimes jumped statewide by 17% in 2017 with a surprising 30% rise in San Francisco. Since 2014, they’ve spiked an alarming 44% statewide. Unfortunately, this increase is not surprising given President Trump’s rhetoric and how it emboldens hate groups.

    For the sake of victims like Scott, Tim and all of those who don’t come forward, we have to do a better job at addressing hate crimes. The first step is to get better numbers. Accurate data helps to solve problems. That is why I authored Assembly Bill (AB) 1985, which Governor Jerry Brown signed this summer. Starting January 1, any updated or newly adopted hate crimes policy must conform to the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training’s (POST) Model Policy Framework and include a protocol for reporting to the DOJ.

    We are fortunate here in San Francisco that our police department has had a hate crimes unit since 1990. Furthermore, in 1991, SFPD became a founding member of the Bay Area Hate Crime Investigator’s Association, comprised of officers from the nine Bay Area counties that work together to eliminate hate crimes. With AB 1985, police departments across the state will have to comply with uniform standards that will yield better data and outcomes.

    As Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I made sure that our latest state budget included money for POST to update the Model Policy Framework. It’s my hope that with AB 1985 and new model policies we will have a more accurate picture of hate crimes in California and, in turn, will bring down the number of these incidents.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.