Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire says his officers are doing their best to fight hate crime but need more help from the community to catch perpetrators.
Speaking at a public forum hosted by the Hamilton Mountain Mosque, the chief said he’s made hate crimes a high priority since taking the helm three years ago and put policies in place to ensure police aren’t part of the problem.
These include pushing for “jail time every time” for hate crimes and providing yearly training to all officers on harassment, discrimination and hate issues – an effort backed by a new discipline policy.
“The expectations of conduct are clear and so are the associated penalties,” De Caire told about 100 people who turned out for the Reducing Hate forum. “We will not tolerate, racial discrimination, racial profiling, in any way, shape or form.”
But the chief said his officers’ efforts to catch those responsible for hate crimes are hindered by under-reporting by the public.
Some people wrongly believe offences like hateful graffiti aren’t worth the bother, when they may be critical to making an arrest, he said.
“What you don’t know on your particular incident or issue is the piece of information that you in fact may hold, and if you report to us, we’ll come and take the report, we’ll put the investigations together,” De Caire said.
“What you also don’t know is how many have been reported in the area, how many of a similar nature, how much information we already have and we’re just waiting for that one more piece of information from you that allows us to tie the cases together.”
But Yasmeen Mirza, one of five other community representatives on a forum panel, said people can’t just rely on the police to solve the problem.
In her case, she invites neighbours to dinner and is active on the parent council at her son’s school, both of which create a better understanding of her family’s Muslim faith and cultural background.
“We have to be proactive. We can’t sit back and say (to police), ‘Well, you didn’t do this for us, you didn’t do that,’” Mirza said.
“We need to get involved. That’s the only way people will understand where you’re coming from, what your beliefs are, what your differences are.”
Other panelists cited the Bible, the Qur’an, Krishna and aboriginal traditions to bolster their view that most beliefs encourage love and tolerance of others, including those with different worldviews.
Mani Subramanian credited the burning of Glanbrook’s Hindu Samaj Temple in the wake of 9/11 for bringing a broad range of groups together to fight hate crimes under a principle of “unity in diversity.”
The McMaster University materials science and engineering professor said while the most recent Hamilton police statistics on hate crimes show they went up, this reflects that more people are reporting incidents.
The 180 incidents in 2011 represented a 45 per cent increase over the year before and were the most ever.
As in previous years, blacks were the biggest target at 55 incidents. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people were next at 31, followed by the Jewish community at 26.
“What’s happened is they’ve created greater awareness,” Subramanian said.