Federal Initiatives to Deal with Hate Crimes

From the Community Relations Service, United States Department of Justice:

Tempering Conflict or Civil Disturbances from years of experience with hundreds of hate crime cases have caused or intensified community-wide racial and ethnic tensions, CRS recommends certain "best practices" to prevent hate crimes and restore harmony in the community.

Hate Crime Ordinances are a Deterrent

A core responsibility of government is to protect the civil rights of its citizens and to advance its inherent obligation to ensure good race and ethnic relations. This tenet should not be abrogated and such a commitment requires no special funding. A government can confirm its commitment to the safety and well-being of its citizens by establishing an ordinance against hate crime activity or enhancing the punishment for hate crime. It can also encourage compliance with existing equal opportunity statutes.

A local government may establish an ordinance against hate activity modeled on existing hate crime law in effect in that State. Punishment is enhanced by promulgating guidelines or amending existing guidelines to provide varying offense levels for use in sentencing. There should be reasonable consistency with other guidelines, avoidance of duplicative punishments for the same offense, and consideration of any mitigating circumstances. Compliance with existing statutes can be achieved by training law enforcement officers to enforce existing statutes, imposing fines or penalties when ordinances are violated, reviewing licenses or privileges, reviewing tax exempt status, and providing incentives or awards. A local government may also establish boards or commissions to review and analyze hate crime activity, create public service announcements, and recommend measures to counter hate activity.

In September 1994, Congress also enacted a Federal hate crime penalty enhancement statute (Public Law 103-322 28003), which would increase the penalties for Federal crimes where the victim was selected "because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." Local Actions to Improve Communication A unresolved hate crime may escalate unresolved racial and ethnic friction into a community-wide conflict or civil disturbance. Communication and interaction between majority and minority groups is often a key factor in preventing tensions or restoring harmony. A Human Rights Commission (HRC) can facilitate and coordinate discussions, training, and events for the benefit of everyone. A HRC can create a forum for talking about racial and ethnic relations and encourage citizens to discuss their differences, commonalities, hopes and dreams. Forums could focus on the common features of community life, including economic development, education, transportation, environment, cultural and recreational opportunities, leadership, community attitudes, and racial and ethnic diversity. The Commission can use multicultural training and special events to promote harmony and stability. Also, see A Policymaker's Guide to Hate Crimes, published by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), US. Department of Justice. Contact BJA at: 1-800-688-4252, or visit their home page at U.S. Department of Justice

Coalitions Create a Positive Climate Racial and ethnic tensions increase during periods of economic downswing. Hate crimes may occur when unemployed or underemployed workers vent anger on available scapegoats from minority groups. Coalitions of representatives from political, business, civic, religious, and community organizations help create a positive climate in the community and encourage constructive dialogue. Coalitions can recommend initiatives to help racial and ethnic communities affected by the loss of jobs, including programs and plans to help local government ensure an equitable disbursement of public and private finds, resources, and services. Inclusion Increases Confidence in Government Hate crimes can often be prevented by policies designed to promote good racial and ethnic relations. Local governments can assure that everyone has access to full participation in the municipality's decision-making processes, including equal opportunity for minorities to be represented on appointed boards and commissions. Local governments might institute a policy of inclusion for appointments on boards and commissions. The policy could require listing all appointive positions and notifying all racial and ethnic groups of open seats throughout minority media. Schools and Police Must Work Together Racial and ethnic tensions may increase in schools when there are rapid demographic or socio-economic changes. Tensions may result from the perception of unequal educational opportunities or disparate practices in hiring faculty and school staff. Preventing and dealing with hate crimes and hate-based gang activity in schools are the responsibility of school and police officials, who should work together to develop a plan to handle hate crimes and defuse racial tensions. Hate crimes can be school-related, community-related, or a combination of both. Officials should consider prevention and response roles, identify potential trouble sites, and plan for phased police intervention. Tension can be eased by regular communication with parents, students, media, and other community organizations. Mediation and conflict resolution classes develop the capacity of young people to peacefully settle disputes and conflicts. For more information on how to prevent and counter hate crime in schools, contact: the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice. See also OJJDP's A National Hate Crime Prevention Curriculum for Middle Schools. Contact OJJDP at: 1-800-638-8736, or visit their home page at National Hate Crime Prevention for Curriculum for Middle School.

Rumors Fuel Racial Tensions and Conflict

Law enforcement officers believe rumors aggravate more than two-thirds of all civil disturbances. When racial or ethnic tensions may become heightened by exaggerated rumors, a temporary rumor control and verification center is an effective mechanism to ensure accurate information. A temporary rumor control and verification center typically is operated 24 hours a day during the crisis period by a local government agency. It is staffed by professionals and trained volunteers. The media and others should publicize the telephone number. The Media Can Be a Helpful Ally The influence of print and broadcast media is critical in shaping public attitudes about the hate crime, its perpetrators, and the law enforcement response. The media can play an important role in preventing hate crimes from increasing community tensions. Local officials should designate an informed single point-of-contact for hate crime information. Accurate, thorough, and responsible reporting significantly improves the likelihood that stability and harmony will be restored. The media can promote public understanding of mediation and conflict resolution processes, and help alleviate fear, suspicion, and anger. Hate Crimes Must Be Investigated and Reported Findings on the exact number of hate crimes and trends are difficult to establish and interpretations about hate crimes vary among individuals, law enforcement agencies, public and private organizations, and community groups. A municipality should assure that its law enforcement agencies adopt the model policy supported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (call 703-836-6767) for investigating and reporting hate crimes. This model policy uses the standard reporting form and uniform definition of hate crime developed by the FBI after passage of The Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA), 28 U.S.C. 534, enacted April 1990, as amended by the Church Arson Prevention Act of June 1996 (The HCSA also requires the collection of data on crimes based on religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability.

The FBI offers training for law

Enforcement officers and administrators on developing data collection procedures. For more information, contact the FBI at 1-888-UCR-NIBR. CRS and the FBI recommend a two-tier procedure for accurately collecting and reporting hate crime case information. It includes:

  • The officer on the scene of an alleged bias crime making an initial determination that bias motivation is suspected
  • A second officer or unit with more expertise in bias matters making the final determination of whether a hate crime has actually occurred
  • For more information, see the FBI's Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection and Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines. Call 304-625-4995.

    See also Hate/Bias Crimes Train-the-Trainer Program, conducted by the Nat'l Center for State, Local and International Law Enforcement Training, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), U.S. Treasury Dept., Contact FLETC at: 1-800-743-5382, x 3343.

    Hate Crimes and Multi-jurisdictional Task Forces Multi-jurisdictional or regional task forces are an effective means of sharing information and combining resources to counter hate crime activity. Some local governments have institutionalized sharing of expertise and agency resources through memorandums of understanding. For example, creating a coalition of public and private agencies and community organizations will give communities in the county or region a complete and thorough range of resources and information to promote racial and ethnic relations and counter hate crimes. This network or consortium can also work with coalitions created especially to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Such a coalition might include the district attorney, the city attorney, law enforcement agencies, and civil rights, community, and educational organizations. This partnership links prosecutory and law enforcement agencies and community-based response organizations. See also, Stopping Hate Crime: A Case History from the Sacramento Police Department by BJA, Contact BJA at: 1-800-688-4252.

    Victims, Witnesses and Offenders Need Help Nearly two thirds of all known perpetrators of hate crimes are teenagers or young adults. When appropriate, a victim-offender restitution program or offender counseling program can be an effective sanction for juveniles. Educational counseling programs for young perpetrators of hate crime can help dispel stereotypes, prejudice, fears, and other motivators of hate crime. Counseling may include sessions with members of minority groups and visits to local correctional facilities. In addition, restorative justice, the concept of healing both the victim and the offender while regaining the trust of the community, may be appropriate. The offenders are held accountable and are expected to repair both the physical and emotional damage caused by their actions. To ensure a comprehensive response to hate crimes, the needs of the victims must be served. For more information on how to meet the diverse needs of both the immediate and secondary victims of hate crimes, contact the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), US Department of Justice. OVC also provides funding for State offices to provide victim assistance and victim compensation services. See also OVC's National Bias Crimes Training: For Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals, Contact OVC at: 1-800-627-6872, 301-519-5500, TTY 1-877-712-9279; or visit OVC's home page at Office of Victims of Crimes. CRS Services that Defuse Hate Crime Activity Victims, Witnesses and Offenders Need Help Nearly two-thirds of all known perpetrators of hate crimes are teenagers or young adults. When appropriate, a victim-offender restitution program or offender counseling program can be an effective sanction for juveniles. Hate crimes threaten racial and ethnic relations and can escalate community-wide tensions. CRS offers five types of services to communities as part of its assessment with elected officials and community leaders. CRS analyzed a variety of indicators, including causes, potential for violence or continued violence, extent of dialogue, communication and interest in working cooperatively to restore harmony and stability.

    The seven services are:

  • Mediation and Conciliation.

    Mediation and conciliation are two techniques used by CRS to help communities resolve tensions and conflicts arising from hate crimes. CRS conciliators help community groups and local government leaders work together to help restore stability and harmony through orderly dialogue and clarification of the issues. CRS establishes with the parties the ground rules for discussion and facilitates the meetings.

  • Technical Assistance.

    CRS can assist local officials and community leaders on developing and implementing polices, practices, and procedures to respond to hate crimes and to garner the support of residents and organizations to ease tensions.

  • Training.

    CRS can conduct training sessions and workshops to teach police officers and residents how to recognize a hate crime, gain support of the community early in the investigation, and begin the identification of victims and witnesses to the crime. CRS can teach community leaders and volunteers how to prevent the likelihood of more hate crimes, and how to work cooperatively with law enforcement. Volunteers can help with rumor control Community watch patrols, and information programs on hate crimes and those who perpetrate such offenses.

  • Public Education and Awareness.

    CRS can also conduct hate crime prevention and education programs in schools, colleges, and the community. These programs break down barriers, build bridges of trust across racial and ethnic lines, develop mutual respect, and reduce fear. CRS helps to address conflicts and violence, reduce tensions, develop plans to avoid potential incidents, and conducts training programs for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.

  • School-based Programs.

    CRS offers school-based conflict resolution and prevention programs. One example is the Student Problem Identification and Resolution (SPIR) program, a conflict resolution program designed to identify and defuse racial tensions involving students at the middle and high school levels. SPIR assists school administrators in addressing racial and ethnic tensions through a carefully structured process that involves students, teach, administrators, and parents. A further expansion of this successful program, call Student Problem Identification and Resolving It Together (SPIRIT), involves local law enforcement agencies as key partners in the design of an action plan. CRS now trains school officials and police officers to conduct the SPIRIT Program as a part of the process to strengthen cooperation among law enforcement and school officials.

  • Event Contingency Planning.

    CRS, at the request of either local officials or demonstration organizers, can assist in contingency planning to ensure that marches, demonstrations, and similar events occur without exacerbating racial and ethnic tensions and minimizing the prospect of any confrontations. CRS assisted Federal and State officials plan the Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and the national political conventions in Los Angeles, California, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CRS can also train community residents to plan and monitor local events. CRS assistance is often requested when demonstrations and marches are scheduled. For example, CRS has helped scores of municipalities with contingency planning for successfully preparing for KKK and White Supremist rallies and counter-demonstrations.

  • Hate Crime Training Curriculum.

    CRS and the FBI's Hate Crime Unit, working with the Department of Treasury's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training and other U.S. Department of Justice agencies, have developed four model hate crime training curricula. The four curricula are specifically designed for patrol officers, investigating officers, supervising officers, and a mixed audience of officers and command staff. This effort was undertaken to provide State and local law enforcement officers with the skills and knowledge that are crucial to the identification, reporting, investigation, and prosecution of and education about hate crimes. The new courses are approximately eight hours in length, can be taught at a training academy or on-site at a department, and were field-tested at law enforcement academies and departments across the country. The curricula contain the best policies, procedures, practices, and materials used to train law enforcement officers, and provide an equitable balance of instruction on enforcement, victim assistance, and community relations. The curriculum can be obtained from CRS' web page at: Community Relations Service