Woodland Police Department’s rainbow badge signals a safe place to report hate crimes

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The City of Woodland and its police department are partnering with local businesses to provide victims of hate crimes a safe place to go.

The law enforcement agency is implementing the “Safe Place” program, replicating a concept developed by the Seattle Police Department in May 2015.

Woodland Chief of Police Derek Kaff said the program provides training on helping people in need and encourages participating businesses to provide shelter to someone who is being harassed, threatened or attacked.

“We want our community and anyone who visits Woodland to feel safe and supported,” said Kaff. “We are sending a very clear message that discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion will not be tolerated in the City of Woodland.”

It serves two purposes: to let other customers know where a business stands on bias and hate crimes and to communicate to all victims they will be treated with care, dignity and respect by the business, its customers and law enforcement who will respond to investigate the crime.

Participatory businesses will have a visibly-placed sticker identifying their facility as a “Safe Place.”

Woodland Police Safe Place sticker encouraging to report hate crimes.
Woodland Police Safe Place sticker encouraging to report hate crimes.

Schools may also utilize the program to identify their campuses as a “safe place” for victims of bullying or hate crimes on school sites.

Participating schools will have the leeway to decide where on the campus stickers would be placed. It can be anywhere deemed as a safe place on campus, such as a counselor’s office, main office, or main entrance.

“The program (for schools) works the same as businesses, we want students to feel that they can trust staff and the Police Department to report incidents of hate or bullying,” said Officer Anthony Cucchi, Woodland Police LGBTQ Liaison Deputy. “The police department relies on open lines of communications to address issues, citizens and students need to be able to trust the police department will listen and act on reports of criminal behaviors.”

The Woodland Police Department joins more than 300 law enforcement across the United States, Canada, and Europe in the “Safe Place” program, according to Officer Dorian Korieo, Seattle Police LGBTQ Liaison and Global Safe Place Coordinator.

He said the program was created as an education campaign to raise awareness because hate or biased crimes based on race, gender, sexuality, or religion were severely underreported.

“Bias and hate crimes are severely underreported for a combination of reasons: fear of what will happen when they call 911, concern that they won’t be taken seriously, victim psychology of not wanting to appear weak or be outed because of a police report, and victims feeling it is just a part of belonging to a minority community,” said Korieo said.

Korieo said he encourages victims to immediately report incidents because in most cases it’s difficult for departments to investigate or stop perpetrators if there isn’t a report generated.

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Other Sacramento-area law enforcement agencies are interested in seeing Woodland’s program develops.

Roseville Police Department spokesperson, Officer Rob Baquera told The Sacramento Bee he considers their police station in Roseville and the nine fire stations as designated safe places for victims to report a crime.

“We have not currently considered adding (businesses and schools) to that ‘designation’ but it’s something that we would be interested in exploring, especially if someone has a successful program that’s working,” said Baquera.

Baquera said they are interested in how businesses and schools participate in the program, including the process and level of training required, and overall commitment.

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