AG Neronha’s workplace, police crew up on hate crimes, police misconduct

PROVIDENCE – In a year marked by civil unrest and incidents of suspected police brutality, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and the state law enforcement agencies pledge to prioritize civil rights work to protect the various communities in Rhode Island from crime or misconduct resulting from the Hatred or bias has arisen.

Neronha announced this week that a hate crime and civil rights officer has been appointed to every police station in the state. This officer will act as a liaison with the civil rights team established by Neronha late last year, which focuses on investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and police misconduct.

“Expanding our civil rights work remains a top priority for this office and this team of dedicated liaison officers will be vital to that work …” Neronha said in a press release. “I recommend that our law enforcement partners rise to the challenge of ensuring that the community and law enforcement agencies are focused in their work to effectively respond to biased incidents.”

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Neronha’s office last week hosted virtual orientation and training sessions to help officers respond more effectively to wrongdoing believed to be biased and to properly report suspected hate crimes. Personal lessons are expected this summer and will be held annually. The office works with community partners to ensure that the training offers different perspectives and best practice strategies for the police force.

State law requires all law enforcement agencies to report crimes to the Rhode Island State Police that, upon investigation, appear to be motivated by bigotry or bias. A hate crime is defined as a criminal act in which the perpetrator intentionally takes action against the person’s actual or perceived disability, religion, skin color, race, national origin or race, gender or sexual orientation, based on hatred or animus.

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The appointment of liaison officers is designed to help streamline information sharing and support training to protect the state’s protected communities.

The initiative was recognized by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.

“We commend Attorney General Neronha for prioritizing the civil rights of all Rhode Islanders and for his work in building a very timely and necessary civil rights team,” the association’s executive director Sidney Wordell said in the press release.

“Police officers across the state are committed to protecting and serving their communities without prejudice or prejudice, and appointing hate criminals and civil rights liaison officers will enable law enforcement officers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently,” added Wordell.

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He said the association looks forward to working with Neronha “towards our common goal of reducing hate crime and discrimination in our state”.

The civil rights team has recently handled several high profile cases. District Court Judge Brian Goldman found Providence Police Sgt. Joseph Hanley last month guilty of assaulting a handcuffed man lying on the sidewalk.

Judge Stephen Isherwood in February found Richard Gordon, a retired oral surgeon from Barrington, guilty of attacking his neighbor in a racist tirade that sparked protests. Isherwood failed to determine that Gordon’s attack on Bahram Pahlavi was motivated by animus based on his neighbor’s race or ethnicity. Gordon has appealed to the Superior Court.

Neronha is also pursuing a Florida man accused of hurling racist epithets and using a gun in an alleged traffic incident in East Greenwich under the state’s Hate Crimes Sentencing Act. This move could add time to prison for Joseph Francis, 35, from Pompano Beach.

In addition, Neronha’s office reached an agreement with Brown University’s Public Safety Department last month to ensure the school properly reports hate crimes in accordance with state law.

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