Below is a press release from State Senator Bruce Tarr’s Office:
BOSTON, MA — Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) has won final approval for legislation to codify in state law a comprehensive Hate Crimes Task Force with the signature of Governor Charlie Baker.
Tarr introduced the measure as an amendment during debate on the Senate’s state budget proposal in May, saying that it is necessary to create a task force with the authority and permanence of state law and inclusive of wide array of stakeholders including state lawmakeres.
Tarr’s plan, originally sent to Governor Baker as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 state budget, was subsequently returned to the legislature by the governor with other proposed budget amendments. The House and Senate continued to support the Tarr legislation through additional favorable votes including those to add an Emergency Preamble to make the new law take effect immediately.
A form of the task force was initiated by an executive order of Governor Bill Weld in 1991 but was never made permanent through statutory condification. Now, for the first time, it will be a permanent component of state government charged with promoting full and effective cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies and communities affected by hate crimes.
Tarr’s legislation delineates membership in the task force to be appointed by the governor, with 19 appointees including representatives of victim assistance agencies, members of law enforcement, a representative from District Attorneys’ offices, an educator, a student, and experts in hate crimes issues; the Attorney General appoints a member.
In addition, the House and Senate Minority Leaders will each make appointments to be accompanied by the chairs of the Joint Committee on Judiciary and the chairs of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion.
“This Legislature and this Administration have been consistently united in trying to confront hate crimes and address the issue forcefully and comprehensively. Expanding the task force’s membership to include legislators means we can more effectively communicate and interact with experts and collaborate better to confront this insidious part of our lives,” said Senator Tarr. “Unfortunately, in recent years, we have seen an increase in the intensity of hate crimes in our state and the country. No one in Massachusetts should ever be a victim of one of these evil acts because of their personal attributes, such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”
A hate crime is defined as any criminal act involving a bias motive evident as a contributing favor on account of race, religion, ethnicity, handicap, gender, or sexual orientation. Hate crimes were reported by a total of 83 different law enforcement agencies accounting for 376 hate crime reports including 421 separate offenses according to the latest filed report of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
“The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association applauds efforts to make the Hate Crimes Task Force a permanent part of a forward-thinking state government,” said Chief Mark K. Leahy, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. “We must all work cooperatively to eliminate hate crimes in our Commonwealth.”
Tarr hopes that reconstituting the task force, which will include an appointee selected by him as Senate Minority Leader, will invigorate the state’s commitment to supporting victims, improving prevention efforts, developing best practices for law enforcement agency investigations, and securing successful prosecutions of those engaged in committing hate crimes.
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