PHOTO: Featured speakers at the first-ever Hate Crimes Forum included Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert Capers (c.) Courtesy of Queens DA’s Office
By Forum Staff
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and District Attorney Richard Brown recently co-hosted the first-ever Hate Crimes Forum at Borough Hall, during which law enforcement and community leaders and advocates discussed in depth what constitutes a hate crime and how these crimes are investigated and prosecuted.
More than 50 different community groups and organizations attended the Hate Crimes Forum, which included formal presentations from the invited speakers and a question and answer segment to zero in on community concerns.
In 1987, my office was the first District Attorney’s Office in New York City to establish a unit specifically focused on the prosecution of individuals who victimize others based on their own prejudices,” Brown said. “Hate crimes – whether motivated by sexual orientation, gender, religious or ethnic bias – will never be tolerated in Queens County.”
The featured speakers included: Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Deputy Inspector Mark Magrone, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force; Queens Assistant District and Section Chief Attorney Michael Brovner, of District Attorney Brown’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau; Assistant Commissioner Sapna Raj, of the City’s Commission on Human Rights; and Lead Advisor Rama Issa, Community Relations Bureau, of the City’s Commission on Human Rights.
The goal of the forum, according to Brown’s office, was to reach out to Queens’ community of organizations and community groups in order to provide information about the law enforcement response to hate crimes. The turnout reflected a diversity of ethnic, racial, religious, sexual orientation and geographical interest, according to the DA’s Office. In turn, it also provided an opportunity for law enforcement representatives to hear about the community concerns in regards to this topic, as well as some others.
In addition to the featured speakers, there were several pieces of hate crime prevention artwork displayed at the venue. The images were created for an annual art contest and exhibition established by the Organization of Chinese Americans-New York Chapter. The competition was designed to engage young people and to encourage them to speak out against hate crimes through creative expression.
Katz added, “The Hate Crimes Forum helped reconvene a broad spectrum of community leaders, advocates and stakeholders to review the laws and procedures related to how hate crimes are investigated and prosecuted. Hate crimes are taken very seriously in the Borough of Queens, and combating it requires the collaboration of various entities. Thank you to District Attorney Brown, the NYPD and U.S. Attorney Robert Capers for working with my office to host this important forum.”
And Capers said, “My office shares the commitment of the district attorneys, law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups within the Eastern District of New York to making the district a safer place for everyone, by conducting outreach to prevent hate crimes and assisting our state partners or bringing federal prosecutions as appropriate. Crimes motivated by bias – whether against a race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or otherwise – will be addressed head on, with the goal of justice for all. We cannot reach our full potential and promise as a country until every person can live free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”