As a group he re-established last year amid reports of a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across New England continues its work, Gov. Charlie Baker last week sent four recommendations from the group to police chiefs and encouraged law enforcement to adopt them immediately.
Based on a recommendation of his Hate Crimes Task Force, Baker suggested that all law enforcement agencies designate at least one officer to serve as the department’s point person on all hate crimes and that all agencies should require that officer to report any criminal act that appears to be motivated by bias to a new website the Executive Office of Public Safety is developing.
“The relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve is a key component to the effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and, most importantly, to supporting and aiding a victim’s recovery,” Baker wrote in a letter to police chiefs on Nov. 19.
The governor said the role of the suggested “civil rights officers” would be to “serve as a community liaison and to participate in appropriate community outreach, to review incident reports for potential hate crimes, and to serve as a resource for your agency on any issues related to hate crimes.”
Baker also encouraged police chiefs to utilize the National Incident Based Reporting System as their department’s primary mechanism for reporting hate crimes to state and federal authorities and to consider adopting the International Association of Chiefs of Police Model Policy as their agency’s official policy with respect to hate crimes.
The recommendations came from discussions Baker said he has had with his Hate Crimes Task Force, a group assembled last year to shape the state’s policies and practices around hate crimes. The task force was launched after a report of a rise in anti-Semitism in New England.
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, there were 177 anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, harassment or assault in Massachusetts in 2017. Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 254 percent over 2015, when the ADL reported 50 such incidents.
“Any anti-Semitic act — any act of hate or terror or violence or vandalism, against anybody or any organization because of their religion, their race, their sexual orientation — is zero tolerance here in the commonwealth of Mass.,” Baker said last month after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In a separate letter last week, Baker asked the Municipal Police Training Committee to work with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to develop a comprehensive and specialized training course for civil rights officers. That training will be made available with no charge to local police departments, the governor said.
The Hate Crimes Task Force was first created by Gov. William Weld in 1991 and codified by Gov. Paul Cellucci in 1997 to “advise the Governor and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety on issues relating to the prevalence, deterrence, and prevention of hate crimes in the Commonwealth.” Baker revived the task force last November and tapped Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett and Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston CEO Josh Kraft to lead the effort.