Amid increased reports of hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islander communities in California and throughout the United States, representatives of community-based organizations called on the Los Angeles Police Department Tuesday to improve its response to both hate crimes and hate incidents.
Los Angeles County’s population is 16% Asian American Pacific Islander, according to Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles, who presented during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Los Angeles Police Commissioners.
“We have a very large Asian American community here. Unfortunately, we’re a year into this pandemic, and we are starting to see again a rise in anti-Asian hate and some very violent attacks that have happened in our community in the last month or two, including an elderly man who was killed in the Bay Area and just a week or two ago, a veteran who was attacked here in Koreatown,” she said.
Former President Trump had been criticized while in office for his references to the deadly Coronavirus as the “Kung Flu” and the “Chinese virus.”
In 2019, there were seven reported hate crimes against the AAPI community in the city of Los Angeles, while in 2020 there were 15, according to LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, who also said there have been three additional hate crimes reported against the community in 2021.
The number of hate crimes in Los Angeles related to race or ethnicity in general grew by 18.6% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to Deputy Chief Chris Pitcher.
Chung Joe called on the department to address the increase by:
— increasing training to officers on how to recognize and respond to incidents of hate;
— improve tracking reports of hate incidents, even if they do not rise to the level of crime; and
— refer hate incident victims to referrals to 211 or culturally specific community-based organizations that provide legal advice or counseling.
“I spoke to an Asian American woman recently who had been verbally harassed and threatened for two minutes at a restaurant after rebuffing a man’s flirtations. When the police arrived, they informed her that this type of activity was happening frequently but there was nothing they could do,” she said.
“They didn’t take a report and they offered no resources at that time outside of offering to walk her to her car in the parking lot.”
The woman shared a video of the incident on Instagram, and four more women came forward to say they had been victimized by the same man, she said.
Commissioners also heard data from Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian and Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a coalition of more than 40 community organizations that serve and represent 1.5 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in L.A. County.
The coalition joined Stop AAPI Hate, which collects data on hate and discrimination against AAPI communities throughout the country. The incidents include refusal of service, verbal harassment of elderly parents and essential workers, physical attacks and racist rhetoric. Forty percent of the hate incidents have occurred at private businesses, and public streets, public parts and pubic transport make up a combined 30% of the locations.
“These are just emblematic of the over 2,800 incident reports that we’ve received at Stop AAPI Hate,” she said.
In 2020, the organization received 114 reports of hate incidents in the city of Los Angeles and 250 reports of hate incidents in Los Angeles County, Kulkarni said.
She noted that the vast majority of the incidents were not hate crimes, but incidents such as verbal harassment, shunning and avoidance.
She also cited a California auditor’s report that found the LAPD failed to investigate or label several instances as hate crimes, even though they fit that description. The state audit found that the LAPD and other California agencies did not report hate crimes to the California Department of Justice 14% of the time. Convictions were only made in 40% to 50% of the hate crimes, while the conviction rates of other crimes is closer to 85%, she said.
Commission President Eileen Decker said officials would be vigilant in addressing the problem.
“Let me say on behalf of the commission, we do not stand for or tolerate any acts of violence. Any behavior that seeks to promote or give a so-called safe haven to those who promote hate is simply not tolerated, will not be tolerated in this department. And I’m sure I speak on behalf of the chief of police on that,” she said.
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