By Matthew Medsger
BOSTON — A new state police task force aimed at identifying and preventing hate crimes was announced by the governor and law enforcement leaders on Monday, which they say comes in response to an uptick in bigotry-based violence.
Interim State Police Col. John Mawn Jr. joined Gov. Maura Healey, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, and Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy for a morning press conference to announce the formation of the Hate Crimes Awareness and Response Team, or HART.
“Recent events at home and abroad provide a tragic and urgent reminder that no community is immune from the unpredictable and devastating impact of bias-motivated events,” Mawn said.
According to Mawn, a recent report released by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security showing 440 reported hate crime incidents in Massachusetts in 2022 — up from 406 the year before — demonstrates the need to be proactive in solving the problem.
“As our nation continues to grapple with a concerning increase in unlawful acts of hate, the State Police will meet this moment with a robust strategy and sustained commitment to confronting bias and intolerance by strengthening law enforcement partnerships, enhancing community engagement, and delivering advanced training and education to stakeholders,” he said.
The new task force will be staffed by “four to five sworn members of the MSP” each of whom will be assigned a region of the state to monitor, Mawn said. Those troopers will serve as a focal point for local law enforcement, community groups, and religious organizations who may respond to or experience hate crimes.
The team is a “diverse and multi-lingual group of troopers who have demonstrated exceptional investigative experience and skill,” Mawn said.
HART, according to the colonel, is tasked with improving data collection and sharing to “identify statewide, national, and global patterns and trends,” conducting educational outreach, developing advanced hate crimes response training, and working to “streamline” coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
According to the governor, with a reported hate crime occurring daily in the Commonwealth, it’s important for state and community leaders to draw a line.
“It’s necessary that we say firmly and forcefully, whatever the bias, whatever the target, hate has no place in Massachusetts. Anti-Semitism has no place. Racism has no place. Islamophobia has no place. Homophobia, transphobia have no place. Ableism has no place,” Healey said.
Healey also announced a series of Hate Crime Prevention Grant awards for Massachusetts school districts to support professional development for teachers and engagement with local law enforcement and community organizations. $461,920 was awarded to 10 school districts. Burlington, Gateway, Gloucester, Framingham, North Reading, Bedford, and Newton were each awarded $50,000. Granby was awarded $48,670, Lenox $40,000, and Medway $23,250.