Police will receive
training in hate crimes
It is an effort to avoid a Wyoming incidentBy Lori Tighe
in which a gay student was killed,
an officer says
Hawaii police officers will soon be trained to deal with hate crimes against people targeted for their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.
Hawaii is the only state in the country that doesn't report hate crime statistics. It also does not have stricter penalties for hate crimes like most other states have.
But police training is part of a move by law enforcement, prosecutors and the public to deal with hate crimes, despite the lack of tougher penalties.
"This is a major effort to avoid a Wyoming incident," said Honolulu police Detective Gary Winterbottom, referring to a gay college student recently beaten to death and tied to a fence post in Wyoming.
"A 58-year-old man was beaten to death" in Hawaii Kai "and the guy got convicted of a misdemeanor assault. What's up with that?" Winterbottom said, referring to the killing of a gay man, Kenneth Brewer, a year ago.
Police Maj. Forrest Broome and Winterbottom will meet Monday to set their plans for the training. Elliot Enoki of the U.S. attorney's office and Harry Yee, member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, will attend the meeting too.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission agreed yesterday to rally law enforcement into co-sponsoring a public forum on hate crimes.
Witnesses from the public will testify on hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual orientation. The testimony could be used to support a hate crimes bill this legislative session.
"I think there's enough concern among the law enforcement that there should be a forum convened," said Yee, also a private attorney. "We could start the ball rolling by inviting the attorney general's office, the U.S. attorney's office, the HPD and the prosecutors."
Yee, Broome, Winterbottom and Enoki attended a two-day hate crimes conference Sept. 24-25 in Phoenix led by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
"One thing we did learn is that we're a different ballgame out here," Winterbottom said. "We don't have the problems like the mainland has. We're so racially homogeneous."
Officers will learn how to recognize hate crimes, how to investigate them, and how to better respond to these cases, which may receive federal jurisdiction, or help from the FBI, Winterbottom said.
"I have seen the benefits when law enforcement is properly trained in hate crimes," said Yee, who trained law enforcement officials in Massachusetts under the attorney general's civil rights division."There are huge community benefits," Yee said. "You see a dramatic increase in the prosecution of crimes like these."
The Task Force for Effective Hate Crimes Laws is gathering momentum as well, said Bill Woods, director of the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation. Its next meeting Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. will review the hate crimes bill that passed in the state Senate but stalled in the House last session.
"We hope in 30 days of this meeting to bring all the feedback for possible changes to the bill and give it to Sen. Matt Matsunaga for drafting and final bill form," Woods said.
Hawaii is the only state in the United States that doesn't participate in the National Hate Crime Statistical Reporting Program, said Paul Perrone, chief of statistics at the attorney general's office.
"We want to," Perrone said. "It would cost us very little, but it would be a burden on the Police Department to report. They would have to be trained.
"I think there are far more hate crimes in the state than people are comfortable admitting," Perrone said. "But not as much as many cities in the mainland."