Gov. Charlie Baker is urging police chiefs to adopt four recommendations from the group he revived last year amid a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across New England.
Per the Hate Crimes Task Force advisement, Baker last week suggested all law enforcement agencies designate at least one officer to serve as point person on all hate crimes. He also called for police departments to require that officer to report any criminal act that appears to be motivated by bias to a new website being developed by the Executive Office of Public Safety.
"The relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve is a key component to the effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes," Baker said in a letter to police chiefs, "and most importantly, to supporting and aiding a victim's recovery."
The governor said the role of the suggested "civil rights officers" would be to "serve as a community liaison and to participate in appropriate community outreach, to review incident reports for potential hate crimes, and to serve as a resource for your agency on any issues related to hate crimes."
Baker also encouraged departments to use the National Incident Based Reporting System as the foremost place to report hate crimes to state and federal authorities. He wants police agencies to consider adopting the International Association of Chiefs of Police Model Policy on hate crimes.
According to the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, there were 177 anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, harassment or assault in Massachusetts in 2017. Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 254 percent over 2015, when the ADL reported 50 such incidents.
"Any anti-Semitic act — any act of hate or terror or violence or vandalism, against anybody or any organization because of their religion, their race, their sexual orientation — is zero tolerance here in the commonwealth of Mass.," Baker said last month after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In a separate letter last week, Baker asked the Municipal Police Training Committee to work with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to develop a comprehensive and specialized training course for civil rights officers. That training will be made available with no charge to local police departments, the governor said.
The Hate Crimes Task Force was first created by Gov. William Weld in 1991 and codified by Gov. Paul Cellucci in 1997 to "advise the Governor and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety on issues relating to the prevalence, deterrence, and prevention of hate crimes in the Commonwealth." Baker revived the task force last November and tapped Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett and Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston CEO Josh Kraft to lead the effort.