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Brown University reaches agreement with Attorney General to improve hate crimes reporting process

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today an agreement with Brown University, following a review of the University's hate crime reporting to the Rhode Island State Police (RISP). The Attorney General found that the University's Department of Public Safety failed to report alleged hate crimes to the RISP as required under state law. Part of the Attorney General's initiative to protect Rhode Island's diverse communities from any crimes motivated by bigotry and bias, the agreement marks the first time the Office has enforced Rhode Island's hate crime reporting statute.

Between 2016 and 2018, Brown University reported 22 hate crimes to the U.S. Department of Education. However, during that same period, the University reported only two hate crimes to the RISP. As part of its review, the Attorney General's Civil Rights Advocate found several additional hate crime reports to Brown's Department of Public Safety that should have been reported to the RISP but never were.

Pursuant to the Clery Act, higher education institutions that participate in federally funded aid programs are required to report alleged hate crimes and sexual assaults to the U.S. Department of Education. Under Rhode Island law, all police departments in the state including campus police departments must report crimes that appear after investigation to have been motivated by bigotry or bias to the RISP.

"Expanding our work in civil rights has been one of my top priorities, and timely and accurate hate crime reporting is an essential piece of that work," said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. "Through consistent identification and tracking, hate crime reporting can improve law enforcement's handling of bias-motivated incidents. By requesting accurate and universal hate crime reporting from all departments across the state, it is our goal to ensure that hate crimes are documented, investigated, and prosecuted where appropriate."

The Attorney General's agreement with Brown University ensures that alleged hate crimes on Brown's campus will be reported to the RISP in a timely manner and requires the University's Department of Public Safety to:

Implement a procedure that clarifies the University's hate crime reporting practices, which are required by state law. Collect and maintain all data and records necessary to review its compliance with hate crime reporting obligations for a minimum of two years. Meet with the Providence Police Department to coordinate the reporting of hate crimes that occur within or near Brown's campus, where there is concurrent jurisdiction. Provide a minimum of one hour of annual in-service hate crime training to all University officers for at least the next two years. File annual reports with this Office that will address: the steps that Brown has taken during the reporting period to implement the agreement; the total number of alleged hate crimes reported by the University to the Rhode Island State Police during the reporting period; a plan to correct any compliance issues discovered by Brown; and a summary of the basis for this self-assessment. The annual reports are due on or before June 30 and must be filed for at least the next two years.

According to data from the RISP, there were 28 hate crimes reported in Rhode Island in 2019 double the number of hate crimes reported in 2018 (data from 2020 was not yet available).

"We know that hate crimes are chronically underreported for a variety of reasons. Our Office is committed to working with police departments around Rhode Island to better identify hate crimes and properly report them," said Attorney General Neronha.

Last year, the Attorney General's Office established a Civil Rights Team made up of criminal and civil attorneys to bring a coordinated and focused approach to the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and police misconduct. The Civil Rights Team has filed hate crime sentencing enhancements in multiple cases over the past year.

As part of this effort, the Attorney General has called upon each police department in the state including campus police departments to name a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officer who will serve as a community contact regarding bias-motivated incidents. As of this week, every police department in the state has designated a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officer. The Office expects to begin offering hates crimes-focused training to these officers this Spring.

View the full agreement with Brown University here.

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