BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont police department hosted a training to help local investigators understand hate crime laws and their responsibility in investigating them.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports the Brattleboro Police Department hosted representatives from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and former officials from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The presentation touched on why hate crime laws exist, what constitutes a hate crime and how protected speech can descend into an unlawful threat.

Brattleboro Police Chief Michael "Gunny" Fitzgerald said it's important to understand hate crimes because hate activity in Brattleboro and across the country has increased.

The event was open to law enforcement agents from around the state.

About 40 people attended the training, including about a dozen from the Brattleboro Police Department.

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Information from: Brattleboro Reformer, http://www.reformer.com/

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