CRS Presents Its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Annual Report
CRS is pleased to present its FY 2017 Annual Report, which highlights the agency’s work helping to maintain peace in communities across the country. FY 2017 saw community conflicts and tensions throughout the country: from protests and counter-protests; to hate crimes and bias incidents in places of worship (including mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, and temples) and against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; to bullying and crimes against students of color and persons with disabilities; to the race-based tensions that communities have faced since before the creation of CRS. Clearly, the role CRS plays as “America’s Peacemaker” is as important as ever.
The Annual Report can be accessed here: FY 2017 Annual Report (PDF). For a printed copy of this report, please contact CRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRS Lends Its Expertise to FEMA to Help Communities Recover from 2017 Hurricanes
In 2017, the Nation suffered three major, back-to-back hurricanes in the span of just four weeks. First, Hurricane Harvey hit parts of south Texas and Louisiana, followed closely by Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys and other parts of South Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Soon after, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This was the first time in U.S. history that three category 4 or higher hurricanes made landfall during the same period, causing catastrophic damage. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated its Surge Capacity Force (SCF), a cadre of federal employee heroes who serve affected communities by supporting FEMA’s urgent response and recovery efforts.
On September 30, 2017, Department of Justice (DOJ) Community Relations Service (CRS) Program Specialist Natalia Casella deployed with FEMA to the Glades region of South Florida to support communities affected by Hurricane Irma. There she served as an Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist and met with state officials, state legislators, county/parish officials, mayors, city managers, and city councils. In this capacity, Natalia provided disaster assistance to local governments by coordinating access to resources and facilitating communication between stakeholders and FEMA leads. As communities began to recover from the disaster, Natalia met with local government officials who identified rural areas in the Glades still in need of assistance.
In response, Natalia immediately directed FEMA teams to those areas and collaborated with local governments to conduct FEMA community outreach events in those areas traditionally underserved by the Federal government. In response to the support FEMA received from Natalia in South Florida, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, Willie G. Nunn said, “The DOJ surge team [Natalia Casella] brought a very positive can-do attitude and mission-critical skills to this disaster operation. They helped forge solid relationships with state and local officials, a vital function of Intergovernmental Affairs. The team also understood how important it was to act as our eyes and ears in hurricane-damaged areas. Through their interactions with local officials, we understood situations, needs and the concerns of residents. The DOJ team helped officials understand what assistance is available to begin their recovery. Our efforts in Florida were strengthened by the outstanding contributions of the DOJ team. We’re more than grateful to know we can reach out to DOJ for support in future disaster operations.”
DOJ CRS is proud to support FEMA in its critical work helping communities recover from an unprecedented hurricane season through the SCF program. This interagency effort is a powerful example of the Federal government working across agencies to marshal diverse talent and resources in support of communities with austere conditions in times of crisis.
CRS Appoints Harpreet Singh Mokha as National Program Manager for Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) Communities
According to the 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation Hate Crimes Statistics, the number of reported hate crimes has increased nationwide, with a significant increase in bias crimes based on religion. Crimes involving religion increased 23 percent to 1,244 in 2015. Muslim communities saw the largest increase from 154 incidents in 2014 to 257 in 2015. In an effort to improve the quality of data collected, the 2015 statistics introduced new categories including Anti-Arab, Anti-Hindu and Anti-Sikh bias motivation crimes. As a result of the increasing need to serve Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) communities, CRS has appointed Harpreet Singh Mokha as the National Program Manager for MASSA Communities. As the agency’s Subject Matter Expert surrounding MASSA issues, Harpreet will become a valuable resource to both field operations and to community stakeholders.
For the last seven years, Harpreet has served as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for CRS. In that role, he worked with law enforcement, federal, state and local government officials, community leaders, and federal agencies to provide support in addressing tensions surrounding differences in race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Harpreet has worked closely with law enforcement and community leaders to conduct trainings, design and facilitate dialogues, and identify opportunities to increase community engagement.
Harpreet joined CRS after serving as a civil rights attorney and the Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS in Washington, DC. As Legal Director, Harpreet was involved in numerous outreach initiatives, served to create cultural programs, and conducted educational seminars with federal, state, and local government agencies to increase awareness of issues faced by the Sikh American community. He has extensive experience in providing legal guidance and counseling on issues such as civil rights and liberties violations, post 9/11 backlash, airport profiling, employment discrimination, and immigration law. Harpreet also represented the interests of the Sikh community with respect to pending legislative matters in Congress and partnered with a coalition of civil rights organizations to influence legislation. As a result, Harpreet worked with members of Congress in co-drafting legislation that would help end racial and religious profiling and enhance civil rights and liberties.
Prior to joining UNITED SIKHS, Harpreet was in private practice where he represented clients in the areas of real estate, immigration, criminal, employment and labor, and civil rights law. Additionally, he provided guidance on avoidance of litigation by means of dispute resolution and mediation between disputing parties.
Harpreet earned his Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and Bachelor’s degrees in Finance and Human Resource Management from the University of Houston.
CRS Releases Law Enforcement Roll-Call Video for Effective Interactions with the Transgender Community
In August 2016, CRS launched it's Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community video. This brief roll-call training video features scenarios of three of the most common ways that law enforcement officers interact with members of the transgender community: traffic stop, hate crime assault report, and public restroom call. A law enforcement narrator provides additional tips on using relevant terminology and interviewing techniques, as well as strategies and resources for successful collaboration.
The video is designed as a stand-alone training tool to be viewed by law enforcement officers and officials during roll call, an informational briefing for oncoming officers before they begin their patrol shift.
CRS produced the video with the support of the National Center for Transgender Equality, PFLAG National, and the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland. A group of transgender advocates from across the country and law enforcement executives from departments who have developed and implemented model programs for engaging the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities also provided CRS with guidance and insight.