New initiative prompts RI police departments to designate hate crime liaison officers


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Every single police department in Rhode Island now has a liaison officer dedicated to protecting the state’s diverse communities from hate crimes, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Neronha said each department has appointed a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officer, which will specifically investigate hate crimes and protect the civil rights of all Rhode Islanders.

“I commend our law enforcement partners for stepping up to the challenge to help ensure that the community and law enforcement are aligned in their work toward an effective response to bias incidents,” Neronha said.

The Warwick Police Department chose Captain Michael Lima to serve as their liaison. He tells 12 News that, while those committing the crimes don’t always targeting a specific person, the incident still needs to be addressed appropriately by law enforcement.

“Sometimes we don’t have a victim if you will,” he explained. “It might be just a symbol that might be spray painted on the side of a building.”

Lima believes the community also supports the initiative, adding that while Warwick hasn’t seen many hate crimes during his 17 years on the force, the few he recalls are still too many.

“I think they basically demand it, and they should,” he said. “It is an important police responsibility.”

Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association Executive Director Sidney Wordell called the initiative “timely and necessary.”

He’s hopeful it will improve law enforcement’s response to hate crimes statewide.

“Police officers throughout the state are committed to protecting and serving their communities without bias or prejudice, and the appointments of these new Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison Officers will allow law enforcement officers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently,” Wordell said. “We look forward to further strengthening our partnership with Attorney General Neronha as we work toward our common goal of reducing hate crimes and discrimination in our state.”

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