Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Jul 1 2020

Report calls for numerous policy changes within law enforcement, schools and employers

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Multidisciplinary Hate Crime Advisory Working Group released its report to the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee today, outlining a comprehensive approach to better address hate crimes in Washington. The group calls on the state to improve training for law enforcement, create new avenues for prosecutors to charge crimes and for schools and employers to better educate people about hate and bias.

“The need to improve how Washington state handles hate crimes has rarely been more clear or urgent,” Ferguson said. “This report provides a road map so we can demonstrate our commitment to the safety of all Washingtonians.”

"We are proud of the work of the Washington State Hate Crimes Advisory Working Group — a culmination of nearly a year of collaboration across a diverse set of stakeholders from across the state," said Miri Cypers of the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest Region. "While the recommendations provided by the group are smart, timely, and effective, they are one step in our continued work to address the growing challenges of hate, bigotry, and discrimination that our communities face every day. We urge legislators to carefully consider these recommendations, adopt meaningful policies, and provide the necessary resources to truly make Washington no place for hate."

"The increase of bias incidents and hate crimes in our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods is deeply troubling," said Maxima Patashnik of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. "I appreciated the opportunities for shared learning, deeper understanding, and collaboration that participating in the working group provided. I hope our final policy recommendations will help leaders more effectively prevent stereotypes, bias, and hate of both the Jewish people and our brothers and sisters in other targeted minority communities."

"Our experience is that Latinos are the targets of hate crimes, from issues related to the border and immigration and issues related to plain racism," said Nina Martinez of Latino Civic Alliance. "Through the work of this task force we were able to confirm that Latinos have not been reporting hate crimes due to fear of contact with the police or because of a sense of discouragement that even if they report nothing will happen. We hope that the recommendations will be implemented, and laws and processes strengthened so that law enforcement will start out asking the right questions to determine if a hate crime occurred, and County prosecutors will step up to prosecute."

"The Seattle Police Department is proud of the work we do around hate crime and incident reporting," said Det. Elizabeth Wareing of the Seattle Police Department. "We were honored to participate in this process. Our model is unique, and our rate of reports from the public are high. We were happy to have the opportunity to talk about our model and how it might inform hate incident reporting, investigations, and training across the state."

"The troubling patterns of hate and discrimnation today in our communities requires action, education and purposeful dialog," said Sikh community member Jasmit Singh. "We believe that the work done by the working group and their recommendations are steps in the right direction and hope to see some of these take concrete shape. There is much work left to be done and the Sikh community will continue to work together with ATG's office and other community organizations to address the broader issues of racial justice and equity."

"As a deputy prosecuting attorney, I was excited to have my perspective and voice included in the larger discussions of race and hate crimes in Washington state," said Jacqueline Lawrence of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. "I am proud this working group developed concrete recommendations for legislative amendments to current statutory schemes, which will help make the prosecution of hate-motivated crimes more efficient and effective. I was continually impressed by the passion of the group members and the work they put into making positive changes in all our communities."

"In this current climate, it is critical to confront discrimination of all kinds head on," said Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline). "It is too dangerous to not actively confront it. These recommendations will help provide a clear path forward in combatting systemic racism and discrimination."

"Hate crimes in our state have unfortunately have seen a steep rise and we as a state must continue to act and ensure all of Washington’s residents are safe from hate and attacks," said Rep. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle). "HB 1732 brought a long overdue change to our hate crimes laws in 2019. Let’s take the next steps for addressing these harmful acts by implementing these strong recommendations put forward by this advisory committee of respected community leaders. I thank them and our Attorney General for supporting these efforts."

Hate crimes in Washington

Washington state law defines a hate crime as an assault, threat, or property damage motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or mental, physical or sensory disability.

State data showed an increase in reported hate crimes from 175 in 2002 to 534 in 2018. Hate crimes are historically underreported.

The Legislature created the working group with support from the Attorney General’s Office in the 2019 legislative session with the goal of developing strategies to raise awareness of hate crimes and enhance law enforcement and the public’s responses to hate crimes and incidents. Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle sponsored the bill and the Attorney General’s Office testified in support.

The 15-member, bipartisan group, with diverse membership including law enforcement and affected communities, adopted its 20 recommendations without any dissenting votes. Most votes were unanimous. There were three abstentions.   

Members of the working group included:

  • Miri Cypers: Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest Region
  • Masih Fouladi: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA)
  • Monisha Harrell: Equal Rights Washington
  • Maxima Patashnik: Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
  • Nina Martinez: Latino Civic Alliance
  • Kurtis Robinson: National Alliance for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • Det. Elizabeth Wareing: Seattle Police Department
  • Jasmit Singh: Sikh community member
  • Jacqueline Lawrence: Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
  • Buddy Bear: Washington Education Association
  • Bre Weider: Washington State Attorney General’s Office
  • Rep. Morgan Irwin: Washington State Legislature
  • Sen. Hans Zeiger: Washington State Legislature
  • Sen. Jesse Salomon: Washington State Legislature
  • Rep. Javier Valdez: Washington State Legislature

Recommendations for law enforcement

The group recommends that the state provide the Criminal Justice Training Commission resources to develop hate crimes training, and require law enforcement officers to complete the training.

The report also recommends that law enforcement agencies assign crimes with a possible bias motive to a detective for additional screening and mandatory contact with the victim, as well as designate a Hate Crimes Liaison to track and monitor hate crimes and bias incidents. The liaison should serve as a resource for community members.

In order to enhance transparency of hate crimes data, the report also recommends including jurisdiction information for hate crimes in the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ annual Crime in Washington report, and require reporting from all jurisdictions. This will identify where hate crimes are reported and where additional outreach may be needed to encourage victims to report crimes.

Recommendations for prosecutors

The working group recommends the Legislature provide prosecutors an additional tool by amending the law to make bias an aggravating factor in any crime. The group recommends the Legislature make hate crime offenders subject to community custody.

The report also recommends that the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys develop a pilot program to track data and publicly share information on filing practices for hate crimes, as well as providing specific training at its statewide conference.

Other recommendations

For schools, the group recommends requiring schools to post discriminatory harassment policy and procedures to inform students about their rights. Additionally, the group recommended enhancing teacher training on cultural competence.

For employers, the group recommended posting information on bias incidents and hate crimes, as well as how to report them. The group also recommends the state conduct research on the feasibility of a mandatory reporting scheme for workplace hate crimes and additional protections for vulnerable workers, such as whistleblower protections.

The Hate Crimes Advisory Working Group fulfills its statutory obligation with the report but plans to meet informally in the fall to continue its work. In the report, members called for an ongoing statewide coordinating body to combat hate and bias within the attorney general’s office. The body would develop a public website to provide information and reporting options, create a public awareness campaign, and offer interactive workshops to bring together law enforcement and communities impacted by hate crimes, among other activities.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

 

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov