Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Councilmembers Receive Final Bias Crimes Audit
New audit gives high marks, shows room for improvement in handling of bias crimes
SEATTLE — At the request of Councilmembers Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen and Nick Licata, the Office of the City Auditor has finalized a comprehensive audit of how the City of Seattle, including the Seattle Police Department, handle bias crimes. The audit, released yesterday, shows the City adequately addressing bias crimes, but notes that there is room for improvement in incident tracking, community outreach, service coordination and staff training.
Bias Crimes are criminal acts including assault, threat of bodily harm or property damage committed against a person because of his or her real or perceived characteristics (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc,). Councilmembers Clark, Rasmussen and Licata requested the audit in response to a spate of violent incidents perpetrated against numerous people of sexual and ethnic minority groups in 2007.
Councilmember Sally Clark said, “Thankfully, serious bias crimes are relatively rare in Seattle, but we do see an unfortunate number of lesser bias incidents annually. This audit highlights that police officers and others do a great job, but we can do more to educate communities about their rights and also we can respond with better tracking of incidents and training.”
“Seattle is only recording and reporting the bare minimum information. We should begin tracking hate incidents and issuing an annual comprehensive report beyond the federal requirements,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “To be a leader in preventing and acting against bias crimes Seattle must produce better information on what we are experiencing in the community."
“The Auditor’s recommendation that the City record all ‘bias incidents’ recognizes that even if they aren’t crimes, ‘bias incidents’ are hateful events that can profoundly impact a community,” said Councilmember Nick Licata.
Councilmember Tim Burgess said, “We will hold a public hearing on this issue later this year in the Public Safety, Health and Education Committee. We will be asking police commanders how they will be incorporating the audit’s recommendations into their standard operating procedures.”
The Bias/Hate Crime and Incident Audit can be reviewed at the Office of the City Auditor’s website at http://www.seattle.gov/audit/2008.htm