STOCKTON, Calif. — A bill introduced in the California state assembly Thursday aims to bring consistency to how law enforcement agencies in the state respond to and collect evidence in cases of hate crimes.
Democrat Assembly member Phil Ting of San Francisco said he introduced AB-1947 after a rise was reported in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the last year during the pandemic.
"They call this the Chinese virus and we get targeted," said Linda Lui, president of the Sacramento Chinese Indochina Friendship Association. "Our elders get targeted pretty often — I think we see reporting from San Francisco and Oakland more, but we do get affected here in Sacramento as well."
The bill would require all law enforcement agencies in the state to create hate crime policies that include protocols on how agencies recognize, report, and respond to hate crimes.
"It's so important that we raise the awareness and that we continue to fight against hate crimes," said Mary Liu with Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs. "This is taking a step forward in regards to the fact that legislation is being introduced so there's action behind the words," said Jacqui Nguyen with APAPA.
Law enforcement agencies would be required to file their policies with the Department of Justice, which would post information on compliance or non-compliance.
"This is about ensuring that law enforcement can properly identify a hate crime, that they can properly categorize a hate crime," Ting said Friday. "By having that data, we're actually going to continue to see more and more reporting."
Carl Chan with the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs is one of the many victims impacted by a hate crime. In April 2021, he said he was on his way to help another hate crime victim in Oakland when he was suddenly violently attacked from behind.
"I was totally shocked because how could I be expecting me myself being attacked while I was helping other victims of crime," said Chan.
A 2018 report from the state auditor found that hate crimes are underreported in the state by 14% due partly to non-existent or outdated law enforcement policies regarding hate crimes.
"If you look at San Bernardino, you look at Riverside, huge populations of people where you see almost no hate crimes reported at all," Ting said. "It's because there really isn't enough training, there really isn't enough attention paid to that particular issue."
While no current law requires one, some law enforcement agencies in the state already have hate crime policies.
According to the most recent data from the Department of Justice, the Stockton Police Department, which passed a hate crime policy in 2013, reported four hate crimes in the city in 2019.
The Stockton Police Department's hate crime policy includes a list of factors for officers to use when determining whether an incident is a hate crime. Stockton Police's policy requires officers to notify immediate supervisors and watch commanders of any hate crime or bias incident.
The Sacramento Police Department also has a policy when it comes to hate crimes. The department's six-page policy requires officers on scene of hate crimes to notify field supervisors.
The Department of Justice's data shows the Sacramento Police Department reported six hate crimes in 2019.
The Modesto Police Department, which the Department of Justice says reported three hate crimes in 2019, also has an existing hate crime policy.
Modesto Police's policy also requires officers to notify a supervisor when responding to hate crimes.
Ting said he modeled the law after studying the San Francisco Police Department's hate crime policy, which he says should be replicated around the state. The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) would be in charge of training new officers on how to identify and handle hate crimes.
"This is what we're trying to do for the entire rest of the state so that Asian Americans, and any Americans, don't have to fear walking to the grocery store, doing their morning walk for exercise, waiting to catch a bus." Ting said.
Hearings on the bill are expected to begin in March 2022.
"Hopefully with this, we can make sure that people will understand not only by one community but all communities we have to work together and bring common footprint and unity together," said Chan.
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