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Cook County To Have 24/7 Discrimination Hotline, But Advocates Worry It Falls Short

By Stephen Gossett in News on Dec 1, 2016 9:07PM

With reports of hate crimes and hateful intimidation on the rise throughout the country, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office announced on Thursday a new 24/7 discrimination hotline, which victims can call to report threats made based on race, gender religion, nationality or sexual orientation. But such an initiative may fall short when it comes to reporting law enforcement’s own culpability in certain cases of discrimination, advocates argue.

A sense of anxiety intimidation—particularly expressed by the Muslim American community to Sheriff Tom Dart—prompted the hotline, he said on Thursday.

“With the F.B.I. reporting spikes in hate crimes nationwide, this will act as a pro-active resource,” Dart said in the statement. “Hate crimes should not be dismissed as a fleeting issue or only a problem outside of Cook County. Any act of discrimination or targeted intimidation within my jurisdiction will be met by the full extent of the law.”

Callers are connected to other law enforcement agencies or put in touch with legal assistance. “It’s an important step, if it works as planned,” said Hoda Katebi, communications coordinator of the Chicago chapter of the Council On American Islamic Relations. But there could be cause to be wary of a Sheriff’s Department hotline ability to investigate, say, unwarranted visits from the FBI and police harassment, Katebi added.

“It could have difficulty addressing those grievances,” she said.

CAIR is among the most prominent Islamic rights organizations there is, providing pro bono legal services for affected clients; but Katebi said she was unaware of any attempt by the Sheriff’s Department to include CAIR-Chicago as a resource for callers. Still, she hopes the hotline represents a step forward, Katebi said.

The number is (773) 674-HELP(4357). Anyone in immediate danger should 911.