The NYPD has named a citizen review panel to help take a look at hate crime investigations in the city, amid a spike in anti-Asian bias, officials announced Monday.
“They are going to act as a bridge and another set of eyes and ears for the NYPD as we look to stamp out hate,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a press conference at One Police Plaza in Manhattan.
Formation of the five-member, unpaid NYPD Hate Crime Review Panel comes during a year that has seen a huge increase in hate crimes against people of Asian descent.
The city has logged 66 anti-Asian hate crimes so far this year as of Sunday night versus 12 in the same period in 2020, for a 450 percent spike, according to NYPD statistics. There were 135 hate crimes overall for the year versus 93 last year for a 45 percent increase.
Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said the panel will review selected cases to determine whether they warrant an investigation by the department’s Hate Crime Task Force. His office, however, will still have the last word on which unit handles the probe.
“This panel is another layer of rigorous review to ensure that we get it right,” he said. “These critical cases will be a work in progress, different circumstances will dictate which cases are reviewed.”
“They may help us see things we may not have seen, and ultimately ensure justice for victims, which is what we all want,” he said.
It wasn’t entirely clear what would determine whether a case gets reviewed by the panel. But the panel may look at past cases as well, he said.
Devorah Halberstam, executive director of the Jewish Children’s Museum, came up with the idea to form the panel.
“We will be the voices of the victims who are often ignored or at best tolerated, but today there will be change,” said Halberstam, whose son was the victim of murder in Brooklyn in 1994.
Panel member Fred Teng, president of the America China Public Affairs Institute, said the advisory panel could disagree with NYPD findings.
“We are an advisory panel, but we are independent,” he said. “The ultimate decision is made by the chief of department, but he’s seeking our advice from our perspective. Certain cases if they deem not a hate crime and we think it is, then we will have a conversation and a discussion.”