What’s in Georgia’s new hate crime legislation?

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia’s new hate crime bill establishes specific hate crime definitions, penalties, and policies for all Georgia police agencies.

Ahmaud Arbery’s family is calling it a way his name will live on forever.

Wanda Cooper now joins the likes of black families who’ve lost their kids related to racial bias. Several of them met with the president last week to talk reform.

From the nation’s capital, now to the state’s — change does not seem far.

“Praying that it’s close,” Cooper said. “But however long it takes, I will continue to run.”

Now, exactly 4 months after the killing of 26-year-old Arbery, Georgia legislators made hate crimes officially illegal.

“Ahmaud had not committed any crimes, Ahmaud wasn’t armed, and at the time Ahmaud was killed, he wasn’t a threat,” Cooper said.

“So if there was no crime involved, it had to be because he was black.”

A misdemeanor offense includes charges of theft or assault. Penalties range from a fine of $5,000 to a 6 to 12-month jail sentence. A felony will lead to a similar fine but a minimum of two years in prison.

The new law also creates a new policy for policing. Deputies would be required to complete bias reports, detailed documents on the alleged hate crimes. The GBI will be in charge of maintaining the database to track numbers statewide.

“it’s not closure,” Cooper said. “But it does give me hope that things are moving forward in the right direction.”

The family is still waiting to learn if the Department of Justice will bring forward federal hate crime charges, but Cooper says in the future, other families won’t have to wait for a federal civil rights investigation to see social justice in Georgia.

“Ahmaud was loved by many and he loved many,” Cooper said.

For the jogger who took his last run, Cooper is confident this new bill is just one pace in the marathon for state and federal reform.

“I think that the more we stand together, the more that we support it, the more that we will get change,” Cooper said. “Change will come.”

The bill heads to a legal review for Gov. Brian Kemp to sign. Once that’s done, it’ll up to the GBI to begin designing those bias reports -- the new forms that officers must complete for any alleged hate crime.

Then local sheriff’s agencies will begin learning how to properly document hate crime charges and arrests.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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