Michigan Department of Civil Rights focuses on raising awareness around hate crimes ⋆

In advance of its upcoming conference centered on hate crimes, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) on Wednesday released a new, one-minute public service announcement (PSA) designed to educate Michigan residents on hate and bias. 

“Our commitment to countering the forces of hate and bias in Michigan is long and ongoing,” MDCR Director John Johnson said.

John Johnson | Michigan Department of Civil Rights photo

“This PSA is our effort to reach people in their daily lives, watching TV in their living rooms, listening to radio as they commute to work or drive to the grocery store,” Johnson continued. “The PSA is not only informational, it is inspirational. It says that whoever you are, wherever you reside in Michigan, you are not alone. There is a community of people who are working to stop hate and bias and help those who have been victimized by it.”

The effort is also designed “to explain who the most frequent targets are, and to connect people with resources to help them fight back against hate in their own communities,” according to MDCR. 

The PSA is the latest offering in MDCR’s “MI Response to Hate campaign,” spearheaded by its Community Engagement and Education Division. The campaign is also supported by the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes (MIAAHC), a statewide coalition of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, civil rights organizations, community-based groups, educators and anti-violence advocates working to ensure a complete and effective response to hate crimes and bias incidents.

MDCR will host its “MI Response 2 Hate Conference 2023” on Sept. 14, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at East Lansing’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Registration is required. 

The ad was filmed in Michigan, with primary locations in Detroit and Grand Rapids, according to MDCR. The script of the PSA is voiced by a diverse mix of Michigan talent, including several MDCR employees.

The PSA comes as the number of hate crimes has risen across the United States in recent years. Michigan’s numbers have fluctuated but largely increased over the past 10 years, going from 410 hate crime incidents reported in 2011 to 610 hate crime incidents a decade later in 2021, the most recent year for which there is data available from the MDCR. In 2020, there were 556 hate crime incidents reported in Michigan, which was a drop from the 630 hate crime incidents reported in 2019.

Democratic lawmakers in Michigan are currently working to expand the state’s hate crime laws so they include protections for several categories missing from the current statutes, including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, physical or mental disability, ethnicity and age.

Michigan Department of Civil Rights audit

The PSA rollout debuts as more news this week was centered on the department. It took 19 months on average to resolve complaints of alleged discrimination, far exceeding the department’s six-month turnaround goal and resulting in delays in 62 percent of cases, a state report from the Office of the Auditor General titled “Selected Activities Related to Complaint Intake and Investigation Timeliness” released on Thursday found. The audit concluded that the department was “not effective” when it came to “timely complete civil rights complaint investigations.”  

“MDCR requested the OAG audit, and we were not surprised by their findings,” Johnson said in response to the Advance’s request for comment. “Our case backlog and increasing number of complaints coming in was the catalyst for requesting and receiving a significant increase in our FY 2024 budget. We agree with the audit results and view their report as a roadmap, pointing the way to where we need to make improvements, and many of those efforts are already underway.

“The new funding for FY 2024 is the first time in many years that the legislature has recognized our need for additional funding to do the work we are mandated to do under the Michigan Constitution,” Johnson added. “We will use these much-needed dollars to hire additional enforcement staff, reduce the time it takes to resolve complaints, and enhance our services to Michigan residents.”

authored by Ken Coleman
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F08%2F25%2Fmichigan-department-of-civil-rights-focuses-on-raising-awareness-around-hate-crimes%2F

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