The Dept. of Justice has awarded the City of Juneau $34,240 to train local police officers in how to identify and fight hate crime. The funding is part of a nationwide push from the Biden Administration to re-educate law enforcement agencies to identify and root out behavior that it considers “rooted in hate.”
The Juneau Assembly is scheduled to appropriate the funds at its Aug. 2 regular meeting.
According to a June 29 letter from the Justice Department, the funds can be used to fight what the federal agency sees as a “marked rise in hate crimes across the country, particularly against communities such as disabled citizens and African American, Asian, Latino, Jewish, and LGBTQ+ families.” The letter particularly focuses on individuals who are “targeted based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.”
According to the latest FBI statistics, there were only 11 hate crimes reported throughout Alaska in 2019 with zero from Juneau.
The grant is also intended to address what the DOJ calls the “critical issue” of gun violence nationwide. Funds from the grant can be used to support a range of training programs for law enforcement, prosecution, education and other activities related to policing and corrections programs, including behavioral programs and crisis intervention teams.
The letter highlights the importance of addressing “increased crime at nonprofit organizations,” which the DOJ says are “often targeted by hate crime offenders.”
While Juneau plans to use the grant money to fund multiple training events for the Juneau Police Department, reported hate crimes in Alaska are minimal and have been for years. According to the latest FBI statistics, there were only 11 hate crimes reported throughout Alaska in 2019 with zero from Juneau.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
Critics note the problem of lumping “sexual orientation and gender identity” in with objective and immutable classifications like race, sex and national origin when prosecuting hate crimes. A key concern is that such legislation often uses a person’s religious views about traditional marriage and human sexuality to increase sentences when a crime that is already on the books is committed.
In 2019, an Iowa man who was arrested for stealing and burning a church’s LGBT rainbow flag was sentenced to 16 years in prison because the arson was ruled a “hate crime.” Additionally, state attorneys general have targeted and tracked peaceful Christian organizations that support traditional beliefs about marriage and human sexuality.
The argument is not that an objective crime against a member of the LGBT community is justified, but whether a person’s or group’s religious views should be factored in to increase sentencing.