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Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins Creates Task Force To Prosecute LGBT Hate Crimes

by: Omar Araiza

Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM CDT

Hate crimes committed against LGBT individuals in Dallas County will now be given the attention they justly deserve, under the Dallas County District Attorney's new LGBT Task Force.

District Attorney Craig Watkins, the first African-American DA in Texas, is committed to protecting the diverse communities of Dallas County. Reported by the Dallas Voice, after creating the LGBT Task Force, Watkins put his staff of nearly 300 prosecutors and investigators to undergo "Why Diversity Matters" sensitivity training. This, Watkins believes, to better understand and protect the communities they serve.

Read more about District Attorney Craig Watkins' efforts to better protect the LGBT community in Dallas County from hate crimes below the jump.


Dallas Voice cover of Watkins

"The diversity training will benefit our office and the residents of Dallas County as a whole," Watkins said. "We are better prosecutors, better investigators, when we understand the communities that we serve. Not only will it provide us a better understanding of the people we must prosecute, but equally with the victims and witnesses of crimes."

Watkins took part of the latest Dallas NOH8 photoshoot to further show his support as an ally to the LGBT community.

The announcement to create a task force for the prosecution of LGBT hate crimes in Dallas County was made earlier this year. The LGBT Task Force is made up of four attorneys, an investigator, a case worker, a victim advocate, and one spokesperson. The creation of this task force is an important step being taken by Watkins to help reduce hate crimes committed against LGBT individuals in Dallas County.

Simply reporting these crimes is a crucial step.

LGBT people do not always report attacks done against them. Many individuals are apprehensive of doing so because they have previously been marginalized by law enforcement officials. Watkins hopes to address this critical issue by having his staff undergo diversity training, helping them be more understanding and empathetic towards LGBT victims.

Nearly one-third of hate crimes in Texas are committed against LGBT people. According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 73.1 percent of all anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were people of color.

As Texas' first African-American District Attorney, Watkins knows the importance of diversity.

"My role is very controversial," said Watkins, "but I'm going to live up to the principles I believe in. I've seen people use their power to hold people back from living the American dream. It's impossible to change this office overnight, but I am going to set the standard of behavior of what the justice system should be."

"I'm very religious, and I read the Bible. We are all children of God, whether you're LGBT or a member of any other community. In my office, we need to protect everyone."

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