Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser joins push to pass national hate crime reporting bill

By: - April 14, 2021 5:05 am
Phil Weiser

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks during a media briefing on Aug. 17, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Tuesday joined a bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general in urging Congress to pass legislation that seeks to improve how hate crimes are reported and tracked, according to a press release from Weiser’s office.

Hate crimes in Colorado rose more than 70% between 2018 and 2019, according to data from the FBI, with 2019 being the deadliest year on record nationally, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office. Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander people have been on the rise throughout the pandemic due in part to racist rhetoric spread by former President Donald Trump, who referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.”

The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault and Threats to Equality Act, if passed, will provide federal grants to state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to train employees on identifying, classifying, and reporting hate crimes in the FBI’s national database, according to the press release. The legislation would also assist with states’ development of programs to prevent hate crimes with increased community education and the creation of state-run hate crime hotlines.

“We will not tolerate the hateful targeting of Coloradans simply because of who they are,” Weiser said in a written statement. “This legislation will give our state tools we need to identify and combat hate crimes and provide more resources for communities in our state who are vulnerable to hate crimes.”

In their letter of support, the attorneys general state that for more than two decades thousands of agencies have voluntarily submitted hate crimes data to the FBI. But most agencies did not participate or reported zero incidents in 2019. “Exacerbating this gap, less than 25% of law enforcement agencies are using the FBI’s current reporting system, which took effect this year,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “This lack of data creates critical gaps that inhibit states’ understanding of the hate problem.”

The bipartisan coalition of attorneys general stressed that without adequate data, states are not able to fully grasp, investigate or prosecute hate crimes or provide necessary resources to survivors.

The bill includes an amendment to the penalties for federal hate crimes and would allow courts to require those who break the law to engage in education about or service to the affected communities as a condition of their supervised release, according to the press release. 

The Hate Crime Resource Guide from the Colorado Coalition Against Hate is posted at the ADL Mountain States website.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a former Colorado Newsline reporter that covered criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and other social issues.