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Politics & Policy

Newsom signs bill mandating police to combat hate crimes

Protesters gather at Portsmouth Square in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 2021 for a Stop AAPI Hate rally. | Source: Beth LaBerge/KQED

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill to combat hate crime, which requires law enforcement to do more to address hate crimes after a surge in anti-Asian violence.

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting’s AB 449 mandates the state’s local law enforcement agencies to submit a new policy to better recognize, report and respond to hate crimes by summer 2024. The state’s Department of Justice will then review the policy and determine if it’s compliant with state law.

Further, the bill requires the state to reimburse local police departments for any costs incurred by the mandates, such as law enforcement training on identifying hate crimes.

Ting applauded the governor’s signature, and said the policy to handle and report hate crimes needs to be standardized.

“Accurate data will help us come up with solutions,” said Ting, “and better direct resources where necessary to combat hate.”

California law currently defines a “hate crime” as a criminal act based on the victim’s actual or perceived characteristics, such as race, religion, disability and sexual orientation. Since the pandemic, violent incidents against the state’s Asian American communities triggered calls to strengthen enforcement. 

A report by the state auditor also concluded that law enforcement has not adequately identified hate crimes. That lent credence to the widespread belief that hate crimes across different communities are underreported.

Ting’s bill also won support from the community of people with disabilities, as hate crimes against such individuals are often described as the most overlooked and invisible.

This is the second time that Ting tried to pass this bill. According to his office, amendments from the Senate Appropriations Committee during the last legislative session watered down the measure, rendering it ineffective. So Ting decided not to move forward with that version and try again this year.

Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com