As a longtime advocate for LGBT and public safety, I am monitoring a disturbing trend that began when former Governor Romney dismantled hate crimes training and prevention programming. Since 2003 I have seen a degradation of police anti-hate crimes enforcement capability in communities all over the state (outside Boston.) Too many gaybashers are getting away because of police incompetence. We need to act decisively to turn things around, by using the ballot box to shift enforcement resources away from minor offenses to crimes which are the legal and moral equivalent of terrorism.
The state is renewing its commitment to fight hate crimes, but improvement is most needed at the local level. Effective hate crimes law enforcement requires that police get the training and cultivate the expertise, department by department, to identify bias indicators, which differentiate misdemeanor from felony, a bar room brawl from an episode that could have a whole community on edge. Chiefs and supervisors need to understand and communicate to patrol officers that hate crimes prevention and investigation get priority.
The police cannot give civil rights crimes their due unless they shift resources away from specific, less safety-related offenses. Too often I have shaken my head at police command priorities that appear upside down. Advocates have perennially argued that plainclothes police sting operations aimed at same-sex-attracted men were a poor use of police time. Some officers still seem more concerned about drug use by, than violence against LGBT people, as if there can be any equivalency. The sometime perception of disparate enforcement of drug laws against minorities, including our community, threatens to poison the well of trust essential to cooperation between police and potential targets of hate crimes.
On November 4, Question 2 gives voters concerned about civil rights a device to free up a lot of police time and energy. I would relish the opportunity to advise police departments on how to redeploy those additional resources where they can do the most good. Please join me in voting yes on Question 2.