Last week, the Illinois Attorney General’s office was awarded a $394,772 Department of Justice (DOJ) grant for hate crime training to law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys in Illinois.
The grant was awarded through the DOJ’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Program.
Hate crimes are underreported both nationally and in Illinois. According to the most recent FBI statistics, in 2019, only 23 out of 728 participating law enforcement agencies in Illinois reported any hate crime incidents to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. In Illinois, 24 cities with populations larger than 50,000 reported no hate crimes incidents at all in 2019.
“Specialized training programs will help ensure hate crime victims in Illinois communities encounter fewer barriers when they interact with the criminal justice system. I am committed to working toward an environment in which victims are comfortable enough to report hate crimes because our responders and investigators have training to effectively and empathetically respond,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, training topics will include the specifics of the state and federal hate crimes statutes, the effects of trauma on victims, the importance of community relationships and identifying a hate crime.
“No matter how well intentioned an officer or prosecutor is, if they don’t know what constitutes a hate crime, accountability of offenders and protections for victims may slip through the cracks due to lack of knowledge,” said Mitchell R. Davis III, the police chief for Hazel Crest. “My hope is that this training will provide law enforcement officers with the knowledge-base necessary to appropriately hold those that choose to inflict hate upon any members of our communities accountable.”
The office will develop the training program over the next year, with law enforcement expected to start training at the end of 2023 and prosecutors being trained in 2024. Trainings will be available online or video format, and a more intensive curriculum will be provided at in-person training for field training officers and investigators.
Attorney General Raoul’s Civil Rights Bureau enforces state and federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination and hate crimes in Illinois. Attorney General Raoul encourages individuals who experience or witness hate crimes to contact local law enforcement. Raoul also encourages people to report discrimination or hate-motivated incidents to his office by visiting his website, emailing [email protected], or by calling his Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692.