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Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:07 am

Rauner targets hate crime

Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Photo by Patrick Yeagle

 

In a press conference April 10 Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled a program designed to train police officers on identifying, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.

“As we are all too aware, hate crimes are on the rise In America and around the world,” Rauner said. “In Illinois, we have to do everything we can to work against this scourge.”

Rauner said that the program will be developed by the Illinois State Police and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish organization which fights anti-Semitism, and will be evaluated for approval by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB). Rauner said the program will be implemented by local police departments in addition to the state police. “These crimes have wide-ranging effects beyond the initial acts themselves, and we need to be very proactive in identifying and prosecuting these crimes for what they are, hate crimes,” he said.   

If approved by the ILETSB, the courses will be mandatory for officers training at the state police academy. “Hate crimes have unique and devastating impacts in our communities, and training will only serve to strengthen the relationships that law enforcement has in the community,” ADL regional director Jessica Gall said. “We look forward to working with the state police in developing this curriculum to enhance training opportunities for their law enforcement officers.

A 2016 report by the FBI found that hate crime incidents decreased statewide, as 90 incidents were reported in 2015, down from 109 in 2014. However, the candidacy and election of President Donald Trump has seen added media attention on reported hate crimes around Illinois and the country. For example, four African-American teens from Chicago were charged with a hate crime in February after torturing a disabled Caucasian teenager and recording the assault on Facebook.

Christopher Campbell, Illinois State Police Academy commander, commended the ADL for collaborating with the state police to educate its officers. “The academy is always looking to bring subject matter experts as well as new and innovative ideas to assist in updating our core curriculum,” Campbell said. “The ADL brings a wealth of knowledge in hate crime education that will benefit our training program.”

Campbell acknowledged that law enforcement has had challenging times in dealing with the matter, but believed the program is a step in the right direction. “By creating this new standalone course, we are stressing the importance to these new officers of the need to be able to identify, investigate and successfully prosecute hate crime incidents,” he said.

The new program is part of Rauner’s four-phased plan against hate crimes across the state. The other three phases include improving public school awareness about hate crimes, strengthening hate crime laws and expanding resistance against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement in defense of Israel. So far, the General Assembly is helping part of Rauner’s agenda by reinforcing state hate crime laws.

A proposal introduced in the House by Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, requires that those convicted of committing hate crimes would serve more jail time. The bill, which Rauner pledged to sign if passed in the House and Senate, additionally subjects criminals to community service and sensitivity training classes. “Individuals fearing their safety because of their religious or cultural beliefs is un-American,” Kifowit said in a press release. “My legislation sends a loud message to those who would harm their fellow citizens that this behavior has no place in our society.”

Alex Camp is an editorial intern at Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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