SF officials announce new hate crimes protocol

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday January 26, 2023
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed, speaking, was joined by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Police Chief William Scott, and other officials at a January 26 news conference to discuss new hate crimes protocols. Photo: John Ferrannini
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, speaking, was joined by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Police Chief William Scott, and other officials at a January 26 news conference to discuss new hate crimes protocols. Photo: John Ferrannini

San Francisco officials announced a new, coordinated citywide response protocol to address hate crimes as the city's Asian American community is in the midst of Lunar New Year festivities.

The new protocol features better support and connection to services and more multilingual services, officials said.

The January 26 news conference by Mayor London Breed came after back-to-back mass shootings in California that impacted the Asian American community. On January 21, a gunman, who was an older Asian man, opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park (Los Angeles County), killing 11 Asian people. He was later found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Two days later, on January 23, a gunman opened fire at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, killing seven. Those victims were Asian and Latino. The suspect, also an older Asian man, was arrested.

Breed was joined by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Police Chief William Scott, and City Attorney David Chiu in making the announcement at a news conference at the foot of Russian Hill, near Chinatown.

In addition to the recent mass shootings, Asian Americans have seen a spike in being victimized by hate crimes in recent years, with a 567% spike reported in 2021 in San Francisco. Much of that is due to former President Donald Trump disparaging Asians during the onset of the COVID pandemic and his supporters mimicking his racist comments.

In their remarks, several officials mentioned the celebrations of Lunar New Year, which herald the Year of the Rabbit (or the Year of the Cat for the Vietnamese community), as well as how the recent mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay have impacted the Asian American community.

Chiu, a former state assemblymember and city supervisor whom Breed appointed to the city attorney position in 2021, reflected on what his community has been dealing with.

"Over the last several years, our API [Asian Pacific Islander] communities have dealt with tremendous levels of loss, hate and violence directed at us," Chiu stated in a news release from his office. "These incidents are inexcusable and have no place in San Francisco. I am grateful to our community partners for identifying ways to improve our city's response to hate incidents, and appreciate the collaboration that has led to new policies implemented by Mayor Breed, District Attorney Jenkins, and Police Chief Scott. The city is working hard to demonstrate our commitment to supporting and lifting up victims and survivors of hate."

The LGBTQ community came up only once in the news conference, from Chiu, who said at its conclusion that "what we are doing is creating the infrastructure for reporting hate crimes, whether you're Black, Latinx, LGBT, a woman, et cetera."

In San Francisco, there were 60 reported anti-Asian American Pacific Islander, or AAPI, hate crimes in San Francisco in 2021 compared with nine in 2020: a rise of 567%. LGBTQs were the second most-targeted group, with 15 reported anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in 2021, compared to nine in 2020.

Scott said that anti-Asian American hate crimes had seen a drop from 2021 to 2022, but SFPD told the B.A.R. that the official totals are being finalized and "will be released in the near future."

New protocol will include multilingual services

The officials touted that under the new protocol, victims will receive better support and quicker referrals to services, get timely information about the legal system and be met with culturally-competent services.

Specifically, the DA's Office of Victim Services will provide multilingual resources and education to victims who've experienced violent crimes, regardless of whether they've reported it before, according to the press release. The languages served will include Cantonese, Mandarin and Tagalog, according to the release.

Scott said during the news conference that for its part, the police department has 100 Cantonese-speaking officers, and 20 each who speak Mandarin and Tagalog who can speak to crime victims who have challenges speaking English fluently.

Furthermore, the DA's victim services division has created a resource guide about hate crimes, which was handed out at the press conference but that was not available on its website as of Thursday afternoon.

(The DA's office did not respond to a request for comment on where people can see the resource guide as of press time.)

The resource guide advises people to call 911, or seek the help of those around them, if they are "hatefully harassed." Afterward, it advises people to write down what happened and report it. When writing down what happened, the guide advises to "write down everything you remember about the perpetrator (gender, age, race, physical characteristics, etc.). Try to write a case description as specific as possible."

Finally, the guide advises victims to make the incident report at "the closest police station" and contact the victim services division at the DA's office "as soon as possible."

The division's number is 628-652-4100. The DA's office also has a hate crime hotline at 628-652-4311.

Protocol comes after Asian elder drops suit

Anh Lê, a 70-year-old Vietnamese American man who was beaten in Chinatown in late 2019, told the Bay Area Reporter that he is "the person they are going to talk about during the press conference." He sued the district attorney's office last year, alleging that his rights as a victim were violated after a racially-motivated attack.

Lê alleged that the office, which at the time was headed by since-ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin, violated his rights under Marsy's Law, or the California Victims' Bill of Rights Act.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Lê said during a news conference last January that prosecutors didn't inform him of plea-bargaining discussions with the convicted attacker, and didn't notify him about hearing dates when he could have read a victim-impact statement before a plea agreement was agreed to allowing the attacker to plead to a misdemeanor with a year of probation.

"They did this without consulting me, without any input from me at all, and in violation of my rights as a victim," he said at that time.

Lê dropped his suit in March, and his attorneys told the Chronicle at the time that the end of the suit would allow Boudin "to collaborate and engage in mediation to improve victim services for Asian American victims of crime" with other city officials.

On Thursday, Lê said he learned of the officials' news conference second-hand. Chiu said from the podium that he wanted "to recognize Mr. Lê, who is here with us today."

The release noted that "gaps that may exist in the city's response to hate incidents" was the focus of Lê's suit, which it assed was "brought to a resolution" by Chiu's office.

Jenkins, Boudin's successor, said during the press conference that "we must continue to uplift our AAPI community" and that while it is a good thing that the city is funding a senior escort program for the elderly, "I will not become complacent or satisfied that we have an elder community that thinks they need an escort to go to the bank or to a doctor's appointment."

Scott advised all people to report hate-fueled incidents, even if they don't technically fit the legal definition of a hate crime, so that police and prosecutors can both recognize patterns and get people who may commit crimes on their radars. In California, in order to convict on a hate crime charge, a prosecutor must be able to prove that the victim was targeted because or their actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics, according to the attorney general's office.

"Please report these crimes and any types of crimes when they occur," Scott said.

San Francisco's 2023 parade for the Lunar New Year will be held February 4, beginning at 5:15 p.m. at Market and Second streets.

Updated, 2/1/23: This article has been updated with new information from SFPD.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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