Though Philadelphia experienced after the election a tremendous uptick in reported incidents of ethnic intimidation – the news media and the public often refers to them as hate crimes – the city’s police department will not follow in the steps of their counterparts in New York state, which as of Sunday, per an announcement from the Governor, will create special units within their departments to fight against, and prevent, instances of hate.
The police department’s reasons for upholding the status quo at the moment, despite nearly three dozen reports – some citizens reported one incident multiple times – of ethnic intimidation last week coming into the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, include a staffing deficit – patrol squad is short roughly 350 officers – the feeling that there isn’t yet an established trend of incidents fueled by hate in the city, and the inability for anyone in Philadelphia to be charged with a hate crime due to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania lacking such a statute.
According to Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia Police Department –who stressed that incidents from last week are being thoroughly investigated but similar occurrences don’t appear to be happening every day – talks of tracking, or employing a task force to investigate, hate crimes in the city is premature, as the state legislature must first enact a hate crime statute – the District Attorney’s office, however, does track every charge of ethnic intimidation, said its spokesperson, Mr. Cameron Kline.
The process as it stands today charges those who act maliciously towards another because of their race, religion, color or national origin with ethnic intimidation, which is classified as a misdemeanor of the third degree – an explicit hate crime charge could be, depending on the language of the legislation put forth, a felony.
State Representative Mr. Jordan Harris, who represents the 186th Legislative District, where an abandoned building two weeks ago was defaced with a swastika that doubled for the first letter in the President-elect’s name, said there’s certainly room for parties to come together and address recent incidents legislatively.
“Some people think hate won on election night,” Mr. Harris, who wants legislation that provides an “adequate penalty” for discrimination and hate, told Techbook Online this afternoon.
Mr. Harris, a Democrat, said with certainty that the divisive rhetoric from Mr. Donald Trump, the president-elect who ran as a Republican, has “embolden the cowardice acts we are now seeing rolling throughout the country.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded more than 700 incidents of harassment and intimidation following the victory of Mr. Trump, who’s widely perceived as a racist and provocateur that has before encouraged violence.
Given the tone and tenor of the nation, the cowardice acts Mr. Harris speaks of show no sign of dissipating, said Rev. Mark Tyler, a Philadelphia radio personality and pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E, the nation’s oldest church property continuously owned by African-Americans. Rev. Tyler today called on state lawmakers to address this gap in legislation by putting on the books a hate crime statute with unambiguous language that protects all Pennsylvanians regardless of their race, color, gender, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and disability.
“This isn’t a partisan issue,” stated the reverend, who said if there was ever a time for clarity in legal language around hate crimes, that time is now.
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