PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon's Department of Justice is rolling out a new system to help people report hate crimes.
The move comes as Portland police continue to investigate, as a bias crime, a City Center attack on a group of gay men dressed in drag. The group was at Southwest 10th Avenue and Stark Street this past Sunday night when they say five men began taunting them (with phrases such as "I hope you die of AIDS") and then beat them up.
The victims talked about the incident Wednesday, June 2, at a standing-room-only forum on gay bashing in North Portland. (Watch the video.) A Department of Justice Chief Counsel Sean Riddell was at that event, along with Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese.
"In direct response to last Wednesday's [forum]," reports a Portland-based gay, bisexual, transgender and "questioning" organization in a press release Tuesday, "Oregon Attorney General John Kroger and Sean Riddell from the Oregon Department of Justice plan to announce the establishment of a confidential hate-crimes reporting system."
We have confirmed with the Attorney General's office that representatives will hold a press conference 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 9, at the Q Center – the same North Portland event center where the forum was held. The Q Center is a "501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to increase the visibility of and foster connection within metropolitan Portland’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) community," according to its website.
A spokesperson at the Oregon Department of Justice, Tony Green, said the state agencies are "still tweaking" the reporting system. He didn't specifics, saying only that the press conference is "an announcement on a significant improvement we're making on the reporting of hate crimes in Oregon."
"This is for all groups of people, and it covers all sorts of hate crimes," Green said. "We're talking about hate crimes directed at people based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other factors."
The Q Center calls this statewide initiative the first direct action in response to troubling reports of widespread assaults on members of the LGBTQ community.
"The disparity between crimes reported and incidents discussed throughout the forum," said Q Center Communications Spokesman Stephen Cassell, "made clear to all in attendance that sweeping changes are needed in both citizen protection and citizen reporting."
For Kendall Clawson, executive director of the Q Center, the move is rewarding: "We're thrilled that the Attorney General's office has taken such an immediate action and offered such a tangible response."
UPDATE: Attorney General John Kroger unveiled a new webpage for hate-crime reporting at Wednesday's press conference. The reporting form is at https://www.doj.state.or.us/hate_crime_report.shtml. Those wishing to keep their tips anonymous must click the box next to the phrase "I would like to remain confidential."