Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officers appointed in every Rhode Island police department

Published on Thursday, April 01, 2021

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that every police department in the state has now appointed a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officer as part of his initiative to prioritize civil rights work and protect Rhode Island's diverse communities from crimes motivated by hate.

"Expanding our work in civil rights continues to be a top priority for this Office, and this team of dedicated liaison officers will be essential to that work" said Attorney General Neronha. "This week, we kicked off a statewide orientation program for the Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officers to introduce how this approach will be structured. I commend our law enforcement partners for stepping up to the challenge to help ensure that the community and law enforcement are aligned in their work toward an effective response to bias incidents."

Throughout this week, the Attorney General's Office has hosted virtual orientation and training sessions to prepare Liaison Officers to respond more effectively to bias-motivated misconduct and properly report hate crimes. The online training will be followed by an in-person learning session this summer that will be conducted annually. The Attorney General's Office is collaborating with community partners to ensure that the training offers diverse perspectives and best-practice policing strategies.

The Office also issued guidance to law enforcement on how to properly report hate crimes in Rhode Island. Under state law, all police departments must report crimes that appear after investigation to have been motivated by bigotry or bias to the Rhode Island State Police.

In December 2020, the Attorney General's Office established a Civil Rights Team to bring a coordinated and focused approach to the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and police misconduct. As part of guidance issued to law enforcement, the Attorney General recommended that each police department designate a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officer to serve as a direct contact to the Civil Rights Team. The Liaison Officer program will help streamline information sharing and facilitate training, providing law enforcement with another tool to better protect the diverse communities they serve.

"We commend Attorney General Neronha for prioritizing the civil rights of all Rhode Islanders and for his work to establish the very timely and necessary Civil Rights Team," Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association Executive Director Sidney Wordell said. "Police officers throughout the state are committed to protecting and serving their communities without bias or prejudice, and the appointments of these new Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officers will allow law enforcement officers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. We look forward to further strengthening our partnership with Attorney General Neronha as we work toward our common goal of reducing hate crimes and discrimination in our state."

The Civil Rights Team has filed hate crimes sentencing enhancements in multiple cases over the past year and the Office is backing a bill that would significantly enhance Rhode Island's current hate crimes sentencing act. Last month, the Attorney General's Office reached an agreement with Brown University's Department of Public Safety to ensure that the university properly reports hate crimes, as required under state law.