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Police Complaints Board Proposes Monitoring Citizen Complaints Involving Police Response to Reports of Hate Crime

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier recommending that the District undertake certain measures to address the reporting of hate crimes.

In December 2008, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary held a hearing to air concerns about a recent rash of hate crimes affecting the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.  PCB’s report focuses on some of the issues raised at the hearing.

OPC, which is independent of MPD, investigates police misconduct complaints filed by members of the public against MPD officers but does not handle complaints of citizen-on-citizen hate crime.  However, the agency often receives complaints that MPD officers failed to take action in response to reports of crime, including reports of hate crime.  OPC refers these “failure to provide police service” complaints to MPD because OPC lacks authority to investigate them.

To improve police response, PCB recommends that MPD and OPC collaborate to develop a system for identifying and tracking complaints that allege sub-par police service in response to reports of hate crime.  Collecting and reviewing these data could help identify specific police procedures that are needed in order to ensure effective responses to hate crimes.

PCB also urges the Mayor’s Office to begin complying with its legal obligation under the D.C. Bias-Related Crime Act to collect, compile, and publish data on the incidence of hate crime in the District and to report on its findings to the D.C. Council.  Annual issuance of this required report would aid District government officials and community groups in developing strategies to reduce the occurrence of hate crime.

PCB further proposes that MPD utilize its involvement with community advisory boards such as the Fair and Inclusive Policing Task Force and the D.C. Bias Crimes Task Force to develop ways to correct possible underreporting of hates crimes across all constituencies covered by the District’s hate crimes statute.

“There needs to be an immediate response to the public’s lack of confidence in how hate crimes are being pursued in the District,” said Kurt Vorndran, PCB’s chair.  “By implementing the recommendations in the report, District agencies, including MPD, will be better able to identify trends and tailor programs that will reduce both the occurrence of hate crime and the level of police misconduct in Washington.”

To view a copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, click on the link below: