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Civil Rights Officer Ordinance approved

  • The Greenfield Town Hall Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Thursday, May 18, 2017

GREENFIELD — When victims report hate crimes or harassment to the Greenfield Police Department, they will now have a single point of contact with specialized training thanks to new local legislation that has established a civil rights officer position within the department.

Town Council unanimously approved a Civil Rights Officer Ordinance Wednesday night. The ordinance, written by Council Treasurer Karen “Rudy” Renaud with the help of Council Vice President Isaac Mass and At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts, is intended to improve communication between the community and police — particularly for members of groups who are sometimes the targets of harassment, discrimination or hate crimes.

“I think it’s good, it’s a good start and it gets us a civil rights officer, which I think we greatly need,” Renaud said. “I really hope we follow up with this, too, and make sure that this is an ordinance that’s getting enforced.”

The ordinance has been in the works since last summer, after a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents occurred in town. It has been reworked several times; originally, the proposed ordinance included repercussions on the local level for those found guilty of committing hate crimes, including community service and a restorative justice component.

The councilors compromised on the most recent draft by removing those elements, which had been met with some disagreement.

“I’m a little disappointed at how weak it turned out to be, but I knew it had to pass council, so it had to be done (this way),” Ricketts said.

The ordinance approved by the council states that the civil rights officer shall receive regular specialized training on working with people from diverse backgrounds and with special needs, act as the liaison to the town’s Human Rights Commission and serve as the link between victims of hate crimes and the police department.

Furthermore, the officer is responsible for updating the community through Human Rights Commission meetings on the status of reported hate crimes as permitted by law, keep track of hate crimes committed in Greenfield and assist in the reporting of such crimes as required by state and federal law, and help train other officers on how to best address victims’ needs.

The ordinance allows the chief of police to assign him or herself to the position, or designate more than one civil rights officer within the department.

Precinct 8 Councilor Ashli Stempel applauded Renaud and Ricketts, both of whom were victims of racist and homophobic attacks last year, for not taking a back seat after the incidents.

“Thank you for putting action to something terrible that you both experienced,” she said.