DELANO, MN – Delano’s Spirit of Community Commission has been working with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office to draft a bias/hate crime response plan, and the Delano City Council approved that plan on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Jon Sutherland absent, during its meeting Tuesday.
Modeled after similar plans in cities like Red Wing, St. Peter, and Chaska, it is the first plan of its kind in Wright County.
Senior and Community Services Coordinator Nick Neaton, who serves as staff liaison to the SOCC, said the definition of a bias or hate crime is defined by state statute as an offense motivated to commit the act by the victim’s race, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or characteristics identified as sexual orientation. If that statute changes, the definition in the response plan would also change automatically, a component that Mayor Dale Graunke applauded.
What does the new plan entail?
“When a bias or hate crime is committed in the Delano area, first the sheriff’s office notifies the city that a crime of this nature has occurred,” Neaton said. “Next, the sheriff’s office notifies the victim of this plan and of the Spirit of Community Commission’s role in this plan, and the support we’re able to provide.”
The victim would be able to decide whether or not to accept that support. If so, the officer would assist the victim in completing the sheriff’s office’s bias/hate crime referral report and immediately forward the referral to the sheriff, who would then contact the SOCC chairperson. If not, the officer will give contact information of the SOCC staff liaison to the victim in case support is requested in the future.
While the sheriff’s office would investigate the crime, Neaton said SOCC members would interview the victim regarding what happened, who was involved and “especially, ‘how can we ensure that what happened won’t happen again?’”
Community response is another component of the plan.
“If appropriate, this includes the Spirit of Community Commission, City Council members, local media, and, of course, the sheriff’s office,” Neaton said. “This response could be something like a letter to the editor, a community meeting, or another action step developed in cooperation with all the involved partners, especially including the victim and their wishes.”
While Neaton believes the city responded well to the racist graffiti and burglary that occurred in March of 2017, “it was off the cuff, it was improvised. This provides more of a formal blueprint for what we are going to do. What are the steps we take to make sure all our bases are covered if this happens again?”
He noted that the city’s legal counsel had reviewed the plan and found no issues with supporting it, which is what he requested the council to do on behalf of the SOCC.
“We’re asking for consideration and adoption of this plan as a formal declaration of Delano’s commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming city,” Neaton concluded later.
Councilwoman Betsy Moran, formerly known as Betsy Stolfa, asked about how the privacy of victims would be respected.
“My presumption is that it lies with the victim’s legal rights,” Neaton said. “That would be something we would develop with the cooperation of the sheriff’s office, making sure that what they wish and what their right is to remain private remains private. That’s something we need to look into and consider.”
The plan states the response coordinator would request permission from the victim to report the information to the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commission, and Councilman Jason Franzen asked if the city was under obligation to report such a crime regardless. City Administrator Phil Kern said he was not certain of any legal requirement to do so.
Before the vote, Councilwoman Holly Schrupp said, “I just want to thank the committee. It’s very thorough. I was very impressed reading through it. There was a lot of thought and care given to a very sensitive issue.”
“Hopefully, we won’t ever have to implement it,” Moran added.
Neaton agreed with Schrupp’s assessment.
“If it comes up again, we will be ready,” he said.
See Friday’s edition for more coverage of the meeting.