Chamblee has voted to join other DeKalb County cities in passing a non-discrimination ordinance, becoming just the fourth municipality in the state with a law protecting customers against prejudice from businesses or other entities.
But Chamblee’s ordinance also goes further than other cities’. It includes a provision on hate crimes, requiring that the city keep data on them and that its police department get training on how to identify and investigate them. Although Georgia does not have a hate-crime law, the lead sponsor of Chamblee’s legislation said it’s important to begin reporting them.
“We’re one of the more diverse cities in the state,” said Councilman Brian Mock. “We just want to make sure that we have an action plan in place that if folks feel like they weren’t treated equally and fairly, that they have an outlet to report that.”
The ordinance, which passed unanimously at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, lays out a process for people to file a complaint with the city if they feel they were discriminated against. It allows the city to investigate and possibly penalize a person or business for discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and more. Businesses could face a fine — or even have their license revoked — for violating the ordinance.
“It truly gives you a way to stand up for yourself and give the city (the ability) to put its money where its mouth is, that we’re a city that does not subscribe to hate,” Mock said.
From 2001 until late last year, Atlanta was the only city in the state to have a non-discrimination ordinance on its books. That changed last November when Doraville passed a similar ordinance. Clarkston followed suit earlier this month.
Georgia is one of just five states without a hate-crimes law on the books. The state House of Representatives earlier this year passed a bill that would change that by implementing penalties for hate crimes. But the Senate never passed the bill, so it did not become law.
Police departments in Georgia are asked to track these kinds of crimes and report them to the FBI, with officers being asked to determine whether a hate crime has been committed. Chamblee, however, is the first city to include this mandate as part of a local, non-discrimination ordinance.
Mock acknowledged that because “there’s no state law (on hate crimes), it doesn’t really have any teeth. Except for identifying something as a hate crime and sharing that data.”
Under this ordinance, the city will have to train its officers on the “proper identification, investigation, documentation, and reporting” of hate crimes. Mock said that will help the city get “ahead of the curve” on looking into possible hate crimes.
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