Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa today made an impassioned plea for victims of hate crime to break their silence and seek justice as he opened up about his own personal experiences of racial hatred.
The PCC spoke candidly about being physically attacked while living in London for no reason other than his race as he threw his support behind National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which runs from Saturday (October 8) until October 15.
As a member of the BME community and a Sikh, the Commissioner feels very strongly about all types of hate crime and is determined to tackle intolerance and hatred on any level to keep people safe.
Victims of hate crime have been prioritised under his Police and Crime Plan and the Commissioner has invested funding into educational and awareness projects which promote a message of acceptance and appreciation of difference.
“Hate crime affects thousands of innocent, law-abiding people every day; ordinary, hard-working people who are targeted simply because of perceived differences,” he said.
“As someone who has experienced racial hatred first-hand, I can fully understand how scared and distrustful victims feel about reporting their experiences to police.
“As public servants, we need to work together to reach these vulnerable people and reassure them that we are there for them, we will fight to bring the perpetrators of their misery to justice, we reject intolerance and hatred on any level and above all will help them recover.”
The Commissioner’s own experience of hate crime occurred while he was living in Forest Gate, London. He was walking home one evening with a friend when they were physically attacked and racially abused on Romford Road. He didn’t report the experience to police.
“Thankfully we were not badly hurt but the impact of the incident on my self- confidence was profound,” he admitted.
“We were both deeply shaken by the experience. I felt anxious while out and about, especially in situations where there were groups of young people.
“It inhibited my approach to life for a long time, including my work as a probation officer initially. Socialising became a tense and stressful event rather than relaxing and fun. I felt vulnerable and it’s not a feeling I would have expected from myself.
“At that time, too many people accepted this behaviour and I doubted whether I would be taken seriously. That is definitely not the case anymore and there is now every reason to seek help to remain safe and stop the long-term damage hate crime can have on individual lives.
“If my experience happened today, I wouldn’t think twice about reporting it to the police and this is the message I want to convey in National Hate Crime Awareness Week.
“Derbyshire Constabulary is working closely with a multitude of agencies to enhance our response to hate crime and to increase the support we provide to survivors. It is our duty to reach those who are isolated by their experiences and I want to make it clear to victims of all hate crime that you will be listened to, treated sensitively and offered practical and emotional help to recover. Please don’t suffer in silence.”
The Commissioner is working with a host of partners to stamp out hate crime and is pleased with the local and national focus on Islamophobia.
Earlier this week, he took part in a Hate Crime Seminar held at Derby Deaf Club in support of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.
One of the practical steps the PCC and the force have taken to increase protection for hate crime victims is a project with local bus operator Stagecoach called Operation Routemaster - a multiagency initiative designed to make bus travel more pleasant and safe for customers.
Under the scheme, officers from the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams carry out reassurance patrols on bus journeys and drivers are being encouraged to report incidents such as damage, antisocial behaviour, ticket misuse and hate crime.
The Commissioner and the force are also working with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation which was set up following the death of Sophie in August 2007. Sophie was attacked along with her boyfriend for the way they looked.
The Foundation focuses on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures in the community and in August, Derbyshire Constabulary announced it would recognise, record and monitor alternative subculture as the sixth monitored strand of hate crime motivation.
Previously, in his role as Deputy PCC, the Commissioner was heavily involved with the organisation of hate crime conferences which pulled together key agencies to improve the response to victims of hate crime and challenge racial intolerance among the wider society.
“Everyone of us can play a proactive role in stamping out hate crime by refusing to accept hatred and intolerance on any level,” said the Commissioner.
“National Hate Crime Awareness Week has real meaning for me, and my personal experiences drive me to fight for a better future. I want to give victims the mental strength to seek help and justice and I will do everything in my power to achieve this.”
Notes to editors:
Hate Crime Awareness Week, organised by campaign charity Stop Hate UK, encourages local authorities, key partners and community stakeholders to organise a range of activities and campaigns to promote hate crime awareness.
The annual event is aimed at highlighting all forms of hate crime including disability, faith, gender, face and sexual orientation.
Stop Hate UK provides independent, confidential and accessible reporting and support for victims, witnesses and third parties.
For more information, visit http://www.stophateuk.org
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Thursday 6th October 2016