Roll call at the Harvard University Police Department will be a little different today (Dec. 14). At the beginning of each shift – there are three of them – after the shift supervisors call the roll, they will address the problem of hate crimes, a growing threat to every community in the country. The department is participating in a massive statewide effort being launched to fight these offenses, which are defined as “a criminal act against a person or property in which the perpetrator chooses the victim because of the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.”
Every police officer in 175 police departments across Massachusetts, including Harvard, will receive a laminated Hate Crimes Response Card designed to fit into pockets or on clipboards; the card includes the definition of a hate crime, questions responding officers should ask, and tips for recognizing signs of organized hate groups. The shift supervisor will talk to the officers about the card’s purpose and how best to utilize it in practical, on-the-spot ways.
The cards were developed and provided by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an 87-year-old civil rights organization, to give police officers useful information for responding to hate crimes, working with victims, and pursuing perpetrators.
“When hate crimes happen, they hurt whole communities,” says ADL’s New England Regional Executive Director Robert Leikind. “It is exciting to see so many police departments preparing their officers to respond effectively.”
The card distribution is co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, and the Executive Office of Public Safety.