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Tolerance lesson has traction

Mobile museum to combat hate crimes visits schools.

December 11, 2008|By Mary O’Keefe

With the first black president-elect, the United States has made a leap forward in dealing with extreme prejudice, but to think that intolerance over race, gender or sexual orientation is history would be wrong.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff Chief of Field Operations Region One Neil Tyler, hate crimes and prejudicial thinking is still very much a part of our society.

According to reports, L.A. County hate crimes increased by 28% in 2007, while the rest of the nation showed a decrease. In 2007, according to the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, there were 535 racial and 111 sexual orientation hate crimes reported.

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Region One includes La Cañada, Crescenta Valley and Altadena, as well as Palmdale, Lancaster and Temple City. This region has one of the highest number of reported hate crimes in the county, Tyler said.

Because of this high rate and seeing the toll that it takes on victims and their entire community, Tyler, along with one of his commanders at the time, Cecil Rhambo, began discussing how the sheriff’s department could take a proactive stance in combating this issue. The original idea was to have a type of North County Museum of Tolerance.

“As we tried to make that idea practical [it developed] into more of a mobile museum and theater,” Tyler said.

He contacted Lt. Michael Bornman, who now serves at the Altadena station but at the time was with the Crescenta Valley station. Bornman took the project and ran with it with help from Sgt. Ray Harley of the CV Station.

“I grabbed Ray as my back-up and we worked on the mobile museum,” Bornman said.

The result is a 33-foot trailer and a DVD that depicts the hate crimes and what they leave in their wake.

“We had a professional [short film] done for the project. It is an ‘in your face’ [film],” Bornman said.

The two-year project has just recently been completed but already the feedback has been overwhelming.

“We have had requests from all over the county,” said Deputy Dave Jennings, the only officer assigned to the project.

Although the hate crimes have not been reported in La Cañada Flintridge, Tyler said that intolerance for those who are different is not isolated to one area, but has crept into every community at some level. He added that he understands the importance of cultural pride but that tolerance of others should also be taught.

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