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Office of Police Complaints Offers Testimony to City Council on Hate Crimes

Monday, December 22, 2008

(Washington, DC) At a recent hearing before the Council of the District of Columbia, Philip K. Eure, the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), testified about ways that the District government and law enforcement can respond more effectively to victims of hate crimes in Washington.

The hearing, which took place on December 12, 2008, was scheduled by Council Member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on the Public Safety and Judiciary, following a number of hate crimes-related attacks in recent months against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the District that have been widely reported in the media.  Also participating at the hearing were council members David A. Catania, Jack Evans, and Jim Graham. 

During the hearing, Eure stated that while OPC does not investigate complaints from citizens who believe that they are victims of hate crimes committed by other citizens, the agency sometimes receives complaints from individuals who are dissatisfied with the level of police services after reporting a hate crime.  These police services cases are always referred to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) because OPC lacks the authority to investigate them.

Eure proposed that the District develop a comprehensive tracking system of police services complaints, whether received by OPC or MPD.  With this information, MPD management can focus on improving officer-citizen interactions as they relate to the reporting and investigation of hate crimes.

According to Eure, “Greater awareness of and reporting on these issues should lead to greater police accountability.”

Eure also urged MPD and its Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force to address whether law enforcement is responding adequately to reduce the occurrence of hate crimes against any and all communities, rather than focusing exclusively on LGBT people.  

Others who testified at the hearing included victims of recent hate crimes, as well as two other government witnesses, Rodney Parks, commander of MPD’s criminal investigative division, and Patricia Riley, a special counsel in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which has the authority to prosecute hate crimes in Washington.

To view a full copy of OPC’s testimony, please click below:

Hate Crimes in the District of Columbia [PDF]