LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 30 law enforcement officials from across Southern California were honored Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League for their efforts to fight hate crimes.
The Sherwood family prize was awarded at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Honorees included FBI agents in Riverside and Orange County who prevented Southern California men from joining al-Qaeda fighters abroad. A Riverside County sheriff's investigator and a police officer for the city of Riverside also were recognized for their work.
"We don't do these cases to get awards, but it was very, very difficult, so when we are acknowledged ... it's special," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan DeWitt. She said the case was complex and took roughly three years from start to finish. It involved innovative techniques and many agencies — one defendant was captured in Afghanistan by the Department of Defense and brought back to the U.S. for trial, DeWitt said.
Los Angeles police Detective Ross Nemeroff was honored for his work on a hate crime that targeted a transgender woman and his educational efforts focused around crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
Sabel Simone-Loreca said that without Nemeroff and the prosecutor's work, the person who attacked her would not have received 12 years in prison. She needed surgery on her eye and mouth because of her injuries, and as the case worked its way through the system, she had to move out of her home. She was homeless for a year, staying with friends.
"It was really scary, but at the same time, I wanted to be able to show my sisters that they should stand up for themselves when they can," Simone-Loreca said. "If many of us stand up for ourselves instead of hiding, then maybe we can get some of the criminals caught and prosecuted."
Other honorees included San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia for his efforts prosecuting hate crimes and Long Beach police Officer Jason Lehman, who created a community education program called "Why'd You Stop Me?"
The program aims to address a question he commonly heard from the public, and tries to narrow the chasm between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
"Less hate equals less fear and less fear equals less violence," Lehman said. "If I can figure this out, anyone can."
A selection committee made up of regional law enforcement leaders determines recipients of the annual prize.