Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D – Mass.) to co-sponsor the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The bill will enable the Justice Department to assist local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes by authorizing grants to meet the extraordinary expenses often involved in investigating and prosecuting these cases.
Hate crimes are not just crimes against individuals, they are crimes targeting entire communities, said Merkley. “They are efforts to exploit and inflame our differences and to deny America’s fundamental promise that every person should be treated equally.
At the federal level, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act empowers the Treasury Department and the Justice Department to increase personnel to better prevent and respond to allegations of hate crimes – crimes that target victims on the basis of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The bill also authorizes grants to prevent and deter hate crimes committed by juveniles, as well as increases the federal government’s ability to monitor hate crimes by expanding the hate crimes statistics currently collected by the FBI.
Senator Kennedy has long been a leader in defending the rights of all Americans, no matter their race, creed, or sexual orientation,” said Merkley. I am proud to join him in supporting legislation to give state and local law enforcement the resources and support they need to prevent and prosecute hate crimes. Hate crime prevention begins at the local level and this bill will assist Oregon police officers and state troopers in their efforts by providing additional federal support.