Spokane, Washington – U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref announced today her office’s increased resource dedication to civil rights, including its participation in a first of its kind, anti-hate crime outreach program entitled United Against Hate, which seeks to directly connect federal, state, and local law enforcement with traditionally marginalized communities in order to build trust and encourage the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents.
“I am honored that our office has been chosen to take the lead nationally in the fight against hate crimes with the United Against Hate outreach initiative,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Combatting hate and hate-driven offenses is vital to our mission of building stronger and safer communities for everyone,” added U.S. Attorney Waldref.
In November, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington was chosen as one of three districts, out of 94 districts in the nation, to advance the United Against Hate outreach initiative. United Against Hate is a panel presentation involving subject matter experts from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and local law enforcement partners, who engage in direct discussions with members of marginalized communities and those most vulnerable to hate crimes and hate incidents. Hate crimes are commonly defined as crimes committed because of the perpetrator’s perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, family status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Hate crimes can be prosecuted under Washington state law and can often also be prosecuted under federal laws such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. By making direct contact with the communities most vulnerable to hate crimes and hate incidents, law enforcement can provide visibility into reporting systems and highlight the importance of reporting hate crimes and hate incidents. Additionally, the United Against Hate outreach initiative provides an opportunity for communities to share their concerns with law enforcement, in order to decrease barriers that prevent hate crimes and hate incidents from being reported. The outreach also provides opportunities to increase communication and collaboration between the communities that are most frequently targeted for hate crimes and incidents and the law enforcement professionals responsible for investigating and preventing them.
The data collected on hate crimes and hate incidents underscores the importance of this outreach initiative. Based on the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, between 2010 and 2019 over 55% of hate crimes nationwide were not reported to law enforcement. Applying that non-reporting rate to available FBI Crime Data indicates that in Spokane County alone there is reason to believe that as many as 25 hate crimes went unreported to law enforcement in 2019 and 2020.
“While hate cannot be defeated by law enforcement alone, law enforcement has a vital role to play in protecting the public and marginalized groups from hate-motivated offenses and in communicating our shared values and fostering hope that our communities can be safer, stronger, and more inclusive,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Hate crimes and hate incidents, including hate speech, do not reflect the values of Eastern Washington and have no place in our communities, our law enforcement, or our criminal justice system. In the coming weeks and months, through United Against Hate and our other outreach efforts, we hope to engage in direct dialogue with marginalized community members and invite them to meet personally with some of the law enforcement professionals, at all levels, who are dedicated to combatting hate in Eastern Washington.”
The United States Attorney’s Office also announced increased civil rights enforcement resources and efforts. “Of course it is not enough to engage in outreach alone,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We are increasing our focus on civil rights, including hate crimes, hate incidents, and illegal discrimination, by committing additional Assistant U.S. Attorney and staff resources. We are deploying these increased resources in the area of civil rights – such as vigorously enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act, as well as veterans and active service members rights, to name just a few,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.
Finally, the United States Attorney’s Office also announced its new civil rights web page found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-edwa/edwa-civil-rights-webpage , which contains many links to important resources and information for people who may have experienced or witnessed a civil rights violation, whether criminal or civil. The web page also provides the public with direct links to online civil rights complaint forms that can be submitted directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
“We cannot bring the full force of the people’s power against hate crimes, hate incidents, and other civil rights violations without individuals being given opportunities to come forward. Our office now has a dedicated civil rights email account ([email protected] ) and phone number (509) 835-6306), for the public’s use. I want to thank the Gonzaga University Department of Modern Languages and Literature who donated their expertise to this effort and provided Spanish translation services to allow us to reach a wider audience and facilitate access to these accounts for Spanish speakers. These accounts are monitored frequently and will allow members of my civil rights team to quickly review and promptly respond to submissions and inquiries. We will utilize the information provided by the public regarding suspected civil rights violations in our overall efforts to track and analyze any larger trends that need to be addressed and to determine on a case-by-case basis whether we can investigate the matter, refer it to other appropriate entities, or otherwise assist,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.