Hate crimes class to be offered

Public given chance to learn about history, legal issues

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— Although hate crimes are a rare occurrence in Steamboat Springs, informational presentations about the issue have been scheduled for local law enforcement officers and the public.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and other agencies will be on hand May 10 and 11 to give presentations to lawmen and the community about hate crimes.

The May 10 presentation, which is set to run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Centennial Hall, is for law enforcement personnel only.

The public is invited to attend the May 11 meeting, which is set to run from 6 to 9 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

"Every once in a while we may have an incident that could be a hate crime," said Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing. "It is not a big problem here but things are changing."

J.D. Hays, Steamboat Springs director of public safety, organized the presentations to come here when he was contacted by an official from the Justice Department.

"I found out they would provide this training and presentation if we provided the space," Hays said. "Anytime I have an opportunity for our officers to get free training I jump on it."

A majority of the officers within the Steamboat Springs Police Department will be attending the hate-crimes training along with other local lawmen, Fiebing said.

"We notified every agency within a 150-mile radius that this training will be available," Fiebing said.

Local officers will hear presentations about different aspects of hate crimes from several impressive speakers.

Steven Collins, who is a member of the Colorado Lawyers Committee, will be giving a talk on legal issues and statutes.

Dick Weatherbee from the U.S. Attorney's Office will be identifying different types of hate crimes, indicators and offender types.

How law enforcement agencies can effectively respond to hate crimes will be the focus of a presentation by Ezekiel Rankin, who is an Arapahoe County Sheriff's deputy. Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice will provide information on community strategies and relations and how to deal with victims of hate crimes.

"Training like this is good for our officer because the world is a changing place," Fiebing said. "You can't sit still. You have to change with the times."

These same officials will be present to give information for the community meeting.

Residents interested in attending the meeting will learn about the history of hate crimes, effective law enforcement response, legal issues and strategies communities can use to prevent hate crimes.

There also will be some time for residents to ask questions.

"This is good for community dialogue," Fiebing said.

Hays is hopeful the presentations will serve as preventive education for the future.

"Some people may say that we don't need this type of training here," Hays said. "But it does not hurt to know what can possibly occur. As things change here, we might see something like this happen here."

The presentation has been developed in partnership by International Association of Director of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, National Association of Attorneys General and the U.S. Department of Justice and the Treasury.

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