On the eve of Hate Crime Awareness Week 2018 (13-20 October 2018), Hardyal Dhindsa, the APCC Lead on Hate Crime and PCC for Derbyshire, shares his thoughts in the following blog
As we head into Hate Crime Awareness Week my mind turns to the dreadful consequences of unchecked hate. Twenty years ago in Wyoming, USA a 21 year old gay man was so badly beaten he died from his injuries six days later. Reports stated that his face was covered in blood, except where it had been partially cleansed by his tears. The murder of Matthew Shepard brought national and international attention to the impact of what can happen when hate goes unchecked. I am reminded of this story as Matthew’s ashes are due to be finally laid to rest in the Washington National Cathedral later this month.
Now some may say that whilst tragic, Matthew’s death took place in a different time, and that things have moved on and the lives of people who are LGBT+ are easier now. I wish that were true, but I know from our work locally in Derbyshire as well as my work as the national APCC lead on hate crime that this is not the case. 11th October saw ‘National Coming Out Day’ in the UK. Reading through the experiences of people made me realise that even in 2018 telling people about something that makes you different can result in rejection, ridicule and even violence. It is now 25 years since the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence. His death sent shockwaves through policing and led to societal awareness of institutional racism and in 2003 Hate Crime being enshrined in law. And whilst progress has been made, there is clearly still lots to do.
Over Hate Crime Awareness Week I will be reflecting on the stories I read, as well as the conversations I have had with people who have been a victim of hate be it because of their sexuality, gender identity, the colour of their skin, their faith, ability or disability. I will also be reflecting on the great work that is going on across the country to support those who have found themselves a victim. It is important that no victim of this type of offence should feel they have to suffer in silence or alone.
As PCCs we have an important role to play here: a key part of our job is to set the priorities for policing in our areas through our Police and Crime Plans. I am proud that in my Plan, I have promised the people of Derbyshire that I would continue to develop the force’s pioneering approach to cracking down on hate; I also made it a strategic priority to work with local partners to ensure that victims of hate crime are able to easily report crimes and incidents, as well as access the support they need. This has included the commissioning of bespoke services for hate crime victims, working with local transport operators to make reporting on buses easier, and collaborating with local partners on campaigns that have driven up hate referrals by 63%.
Earlier this year I commissioned a survey of my PCC colleagues’ offices, to see what other initiatives were in place in forces, and I was glad to see that OPCCs and forces are being proactive in terms of facilitating reporting, and also in providing training to police officers. However, further work is needed to ensure that information is accessible to as wide a range of communities as possible; whilst additional progress is needed on harnessing the power of technology to combat online hate crime.
Indeed, many challenges lie ahead, but what we must understand is that hate stems from a lack of understanding and a fear of difference, and we must all strive to ensure that difference is celebrated, not feared. I strongly believe that it is our differences that make us stronger and it is our differences that make life interesting. That is why we must stand together to say #NO2HATE.
Notes for Editors