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King County looks at forming hate crime unit in Sheriff’s Office

Four deputies would be assigned to group

Responding in part to a shocking increase in crimes of hate and bias, King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn has introduced legislation that would create a dedicated Hate and Bias Crime Unit within the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“We must take meaningful action to stop the heinous acts of violence that are occurring in our communities,” Dunn said in a Monday, March 29 news release. “With hate crimes on the rise nationwide and here at home, having a dedicated unit of deputies would help ensure that these victims are made a priority here in King County.”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has reported a significant rise in hate crimes perpetrated in King County, from 30 cases in 2018 to 59 cases in 2020. At the same time, multiple studies show that hate crimes are still vastly underreported.

“There is no room for hate and racial bias in our communities,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht. “It comes in many forms, such as bullying, racial epithets, verbal abuse and physical violence toward our LGBTQ or BIPOC neighbors. I thank Councilmember Dunn for recognizing this unconscionable hate is a bipartisan issue and will take all of us, standing together, to conquer.”

The Hate and Bias Crime Unit would be comprised of four King County Sheriff’s deputies and one support staff member. It would be tasked with developing a standard system for collecting, analyzing, and reporting incidents of hate crime, and establishing policies that are mindful of the security concerns, fear, and distress of victims and their families. The Sheriff’s Office would also create a community engagement plan to encourage victims of hate crimes to report them.

A hate crime is defined in Washington state law as an intentional threat or injury to persons or property because of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or disability.


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