What are Hate Crimes?
Hate crimes are criminal acts--such as vandalism, arson, assault, or murder--committed against someone because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age, or gender. In a hate crime, the person is selected because of a characteristic that he or she cannot change. Hate incidents are actions motivated by prejudice that aren't necessarily crimes, but are harmful nonetheless.
Distinguishing between what is legal and illegal can be confusing. Why? Because we also know that our Constitution protects our freedom of speech, expression, and thought. No one wants to punish people for their beliefs or for what they say. But we do want to ensure the civil rights of all individuals and punish behavior that violates these rights.
Hate crimes and hate incidents are major issues for all police because of their unique impact on victims as well as the community.
As someone living in the United States, we all have basic civil rights
· We have the right to attend school without being the victim of violence, threats of harm, intimidation, or damage to your belongings
· We have the right to be ourself and to be free from being harassed, discriminated against, or attacked for who we are
· We have the right to be free from violence motivated by prejudice or hatred
There are laws to protect these rights. There are people who can help you when these laws are being violated.
Dealing with Victim and Community Aftermath
To respond to the backlash and all crimes committed that target Sikhs and any group based upon race ethnicity, religion, etc., through the use of education, outreach, community resources and criminal justice system.
Hate Crimes vs. Hate Incidents
A hate incident is any act, whether consisting of conduct, speech, or expression, to which a bias motive is evident as a contributing factor, without regard for whether the act constitutes a crime.
Hate incidents involve behaviors that, though motivated by bias against a victim's race, religion, ethnic/national origin, gender, age, are not necessarily criminal acts. Hostile or hateful speech, for example may be motivated by bias but is not illegal. They become crimes only when they directly incite perpetrators to commit violence against persons or property, or if they place a victim in reasonable fear of physical injury. Officers should thoroughly document evidence in all bias-motivated incidents. Law enforcement can help to defuse potentially dangerous situations and prevent bias-motivated criminal behavior by responding to and documenting bias-motivated speech or behavior even if it does not rise to the level of a criminal offense.
When a hate crime or bias related incident occurs, many individual's and group's feelings of fear, outrage or alienation are intensified. When this happens it is important that the victims know what type of resources within the community are available for them. This is important not only for the victims, but also for the larger community.
Dealing with victim and community aftermath of a hate crime needs to involve a multi-step process. First, the response by the police needs to be professional as well as sensitive to the victim's emotions. Each police department should have a civil rights officer in place who is able to meet the needs of the victims of bias crime. Policies should also be implemented with respect to the victim's and community concerns. It is also essential that the initial response is rapid. Secondly, "sanctions against bigotry and hatred are very effective when coming from the neighbors, friends and relatives of the perpetrators of hate crimes."
The community needs to recognize problems which may have precipitated an incident, and if so, address what steps can be taken to rectify the situation. It also needs to assess community resources which are interested in addressing issues of racial/ethnic intolerance. This can be done through the implementation of a community action committee.
A community-based coalition could be made up of local government and state officials, clergy, law enforcement, and community residents. This group should be put in place ahead of time. "When a community-based coalition is ready to respond with an immediate and strong statement of condemnation of intergroup violence, it lets the targeted population know that the community stands ready to oppose the forces that promote intergroup conflict"
The criminal justice system's response should also address the situation with great sensitivity to the victims and yet maintain professionalism in cases where there is much racial/ethnic tension. A community based coalition working along with local law enforcement and government can be extremely effective in working through the critical issues faced when confronted with a hate crime. Bigotry, fear and violence are both a community problem, as well as a larger societal sickness.
Steps to address the issues described above:
1. Local community leaders should take a strong stand against intergroup violence.
2. Sanctions against bigotry and violence are very effective when coming from family, neighbors, and peers.
3. United voice coalitions can come from different groups within the community.
4. Building a community-based coalition against bias crimes and incidents. This entails the: a)enlisting of well-known leaders in gaining credibility, and b)demonstrating that a problem exists.
5. Assessing community resources.
6. Assess hate/bias crime laws in your state, county, and city.
7. Tapping into local human relations commissions.
8. Assessing the role of local criminal justice agencies and victims assistance programs.
Prior to Saptember 11, 2001 - in the last half century major strides have been made in the nation's struggle to address issues that create racial conflict. The judicial system has affirmed constitutional guarantees for equal rights and equal protection for all people.
Other advancements include the enactment of federal civil rights laws, the establishment of Federal agencies to enforce and protect civil rights, the increasingly active role of states and municipalities to protect civil rights and resolve racial conflict, and a general increase in tolerance on the part of the average American citizen.
Despite these changes since the attack on America and over the past several decades, racial and ethnic tension still arises. When it does, it undermines the strength and unity of the affected community.
The Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, has been charged by the Congress to be the principal Federal agency to address racial and ethnic conflict in the United States. Over the past three decades the Community Relations Service has been the Federal government's racial troubleshooter, devoting its energies and resources to providing assistance to communities and individuals in resolving disputes, disagreements, or difficulties relating to discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. The Community Relations Service focuses on preventing and/or resolving interracial confrontation and hate violence by assisting local jurisdictions in responding to riots, demonstrations, or civil disorder and assisting local law enforcement agencies to improve their service and relations with minority communities.
The main difference between a hate crime and other crimes is that a perpetrator of a hate crime is motivated by bias. To evaluate a perpetrator's motives, you should consider several bias indicators. Bias indicators are objective facts, circumstances, or patterns attending a criminal act(s) which, standing alone or in conjunction with other facts or circumstances, suggest that the offender's actions were motivated in whole or in part, by any form of bias.
· perceptions of the victim(s) and witnesses about the crime
· the perpetrator's comments, gestures or written statements that reflect bias, including graffiti or other symbols
· any differences between perpetrator and victim, whether actual or perceived by the perpetrator
· similar incidents in the same location or neighborhood to determine whether a pattern exists
· whether the victim was engaged in activities promoting his/her group or community--for example, by clothing or conduct
· whether the incident coincided with a holiday or data of particular significance
· involvement of organized hate groups or their members
· absence of any other motive such as economic gain
The presence of any of these factors does not necessarily confirm that the incident was a hate offense but may indicate the need for further investigation into motive. A victim's perception is an important factor to consider, but be aware that victims may not recognize the crime as motivated by bias. Victims should not be asked directly whether they believe they were the victim of a hate crime, but it is appropriate to ask if they have any idea why they might have been victimized. Victims and perpetrators may appear to be from the same race, ethnicity/nationality, or religion, but it is the perpetrator's perception of difference (whether accurate or not) motivating his or her criminal behavior that would constitute a hate crime.
Impact of Bias Crimes
Hate crimes are unique. Victims of hate crimes are targeted because of a core characteristic of their identity. These attributes cannot be changed. Victims often feel degraded, frightened, vulnerable and suspicious. This may be one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives. Community members who share with victims the characteristics that made them targets of hate (race, religion, ethnic/national origin, gender, or disability) may also feel vulnerable, fearful, and powerless. In this emotional atmosphere, a swift and strong law enforcement response can help stabilize and calm the community, while aiding the victim's recovery.
Because the basis for the attack is the victim's identity, victim(s) may suffer:
· Deep personal crisis
· Increased vulnerability to repeat attack
· Sense of community/system betrayal
· Acute shock and disbelief
· Extreme fear of certain groups
· Anger/desire for revenge
· Shame and humiliation
Hate crimes victimize the entire community and may involve:
· Victimization projected to all community members
· Sense of group vulnerability
· Community tension/fear
· Possibility of reactive crimes or copycat incidents
· Community polarization
· Redirection of law enforcement resources
· Loss of trust in criminal justice institutions
· Public damage, i.e. buildings such as churches/synagogues
The Role of the Police Officer and Police Agency
Police officers and their agencies can accomplish much by working in partnership with citizens to implement the American vision of diverse and tolerant communities that offer freedom, safety and dignity for all.
Patrol Officer's Responsibilities
When an officer at the scene of an incident believes that it may have been motivated by [citizenship, race, religion, ethnic/national origin, handicap, or gender] bias, the officer shall take any preliminary actions necessary, such as:
· Determining whether any offenders are present and, if so, taking appropriate enforcement measures
· Restoring order to the crime scene and taking any necessary actions to gain control of the situation
· Responding in a courteous, respectful, and professional manner to the feelings and needs of the victim. A police officer's calm and helpful attitude is critical to controlling the scene and the emotions of those present
· Identifying any injured parties and taking steps to provide medical assistance
· Identifying any witnesses or others who have knowledge of the crime
· Protecting the crime scene, determining if police photographs of the scene or victims are required, and taking steps to obtain them if needed
· Summoning a patrol supervisor to the scene and assuring the victim of careful review and investigation
· Conducting the preliminary investigation of the incident and filing a complete and detailed report noting specific language used by the offender, including specific markings or graffiti according to departmental procedures (Note specifically in the title of the report that the incident appears to be a possible bias crime)
· At the earliest time identify needed additional resources (i.e., translators)
· Notify victim advocate of crime
Patrol Supervisors Responsibilities
The patrol supervisor shall respond immediately to the scene of the incident and shall:
· Confer with the initial responding officer
· Take measures to ensure that all necessary preliminary actions have been taken and inform his immediate supervisor of the incident
· Request any appropriate additional personnel necessary to complete the preliminary investigation and begin the follow-up investigation
· Provide immediate assistance to the crime victim, allowing him/her a period in which to express their feelings and concerns
· Reassure the victim that the department will take appropriate action
· Assist the victim in identifying or contacting individuals or agencies that may provide support and/or assistance: family members, friends, clergy, and/or community service agencies
· Provide security and precautionary advice to the victim and refer him/her to the Department of Civil Rights Office for assistance
· Supervise the preliminary investigation to include preliminary interviews of the victim and any witnesses to the incident
· Ensure that all relevant facts are documented on the incident and/or arrest report, and make an initial determination as to whether the incident should be classified as a bias crime
Strategies for Effective Investigations
· Because the attack was based on the victim's identity, be prepared for an emotional response from the victim, family, and targeted group
· Victim may be reluctant to cooperate in the investigation due to fear of retaliation, cultural or language barriers or fear of being "outed"
· Tell the victim that law enforcement takes this very seriously and that you are sorry the incident happened
· Allow the victim to use his or her own words. Use interpreter, if necessary
· Call a supervisor, if appropriate
· If possible, interview away from public scrutiny
· Keep questions simple (victim may be distraught)
· Reassure them that every effort will be made to protect their anonymity during the investigation
· Make certain victim is aware of next steps to be initiated
· Inform them of what efforts can be made to enhance their safety
· Suggest to the victim and the victim's group that they can seek support and comfort from a number of community-based organizations. Have names and telephone numbers of victim assistance organizations available.
· Being abrupt or rushed
· Making assumptions or jumping to conclusions - particularly about the victim's culture, religion, or lifestyle choices
· Allowing personal value judgements about the victim's behavior, lifestyle or culture to affect your objectivity
· Using stereotyped or biased terms
· Telling victim(s) that you know how they feel
· Minimizing the victim's feelings or the seriousness of the incident, particularly if the perpetrator was a juvenile
· Asking them whether they think this was a bias or hate crime - Rather, ask them if they have any idea why this happened to them
· Criticizing the victim's behavior