Charleston Police to attend hate crime prevention training

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 8:06 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A LGBTQ nonprofit will host training Friday for Charleston Police officers that will help them recognize and fight hate crimes.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation works to promote equality and the dignity of all people. It was formed after the 1998 death of Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was brutally attacked, tied to a fence and left to die. He died five days later at a Colorado hospital.

Cynthia Deitle, the organization’s director of Civil Rights reform, says based on the population of Charleston, police may be underreporting hate crimes.

In 2020, Charleston Police reported a total of five hate crimes. And in 2019, they reported four hate crimes. But with a town the size of Charleston, Deitle says they often seen 30 to 40 more hate crimes reported per year.

Deitle says its about knowing how to enforce hate crime laws. She says a swastika painted on a synagogue can be considered vandalism or graffiti and a hate crime.

“Are you going to know it when you see it?” Deitle said. “And are you going to know that if that’s what that is, if it’s a very distrusting expression of hate, will you know how to engage with that victim population in a very compassionate and sensitive way to acknowledge that there was an expression of hate, that they were targeted for who they are?”

Deitle says although there is not a hate crime law in South Carolina, the foundation encourages officers to work with the FBI and federal law enforcement agencies to determine if the act of hate violates a federal statute.

There is also a statute in the City of Charleston that addresses bias-motivated incidents.

This will be the first time the Matthew Shepard Foundation is hosting a training in Charleston. Deitle says they maxed out on the number of officers volunteering to take the training several days prior to the event.

Charleston Police released a statement about purpose of the training:

This training will aid in the continual improvement of interpersonal skills, cultural awareness and sensitivity, non-enforcement engagement, and fundamentals of community policing for the officers.

The training will also provide the officers with the importance of effective investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, the development of strong ties between law enforcement and vulnerable communities, key investigative steps necessary to obtain evidence, and the collaboration between investigators and prosecutors that is crucial in a successful prosecution.

The Charleston Police Department remains vigilant in its commitment to lead the charge in standing up to hate bias, and demonstrate a citywide “no tolerance” policy toward discrimination.

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