On May 20, 2021 President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, addressing hate crimes during the pandemic with a specific focus on the rising violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The legislation was designed to improve mechanisms for reporting hate crimes at the local and state level and make training available for law enforcement agencies to accurately identify and report hate crimes. The act came after increasing violence against AAPI communities, including the March 16, 2021 shootings at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia, which left 8 dead, including six Asian women. In October 2021, the DOJ announced that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) would award $21 million to state and local agencies and community organizations to promote the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and assist victims.
CREW requests all DOJ records relating to the OJP’s award of grants to law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute hate crimes following the rise of anti-Asian violence. CREW also requests all communications between the DOJ and law enforcement agencies providing guidance on how to establish online reporting for hate crimes consistent with the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
Transparency around the use of increased funding to law enforcement to address hate incidents is important, especially given law enforcement’s abuses towards communities of color. It is imperative that the distribution of resources to community organizations is significant and not an empty promise, and that the DOJ is not simply using anti-Asian violence as an opportunity to fund more policing without any transparency. DOJ processes are notoriously opaque—any measures that the DOJ has taken to effectively address anti-Asian violence must be measurable and publicly accessible.