Closer Look: Federal Government’s Role in Hate Crime Response

Side view of several female and male protesters holding colorful signs up and marching at a rallyThe United States Commission on Civil Rights has released “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crimes“. Director of the Commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, notes that violent incidents, such as the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, demonstrate the imperative need for information and prevention regarding bias-based attacks. Director Lhamon points out that, “The highest percent of reported post-2016 election hate incidents were in K-12 schools, and the majority of these incidents involved racial discrimination.” Specifically, the Commission examined the three following areas of the U.S. federal government’s response to hate crimes:

  1. Federal law enforcement’s hate crimes reporting practices and local policies being developed to encourage greater reporting;
  2. Federal prosecution and enforcement of laws regarding hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents;
  3. Prevention of federal crimes based on race, national origin, ethnicity, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Ultimately, the findings of the Commission’s investigation reveal several trends. 46 states and the District of Columbia have a formalized hate crime statute in place. Yet, according to the data, not only are hate crimes increasing in the United States, but there is also a severe underreporting of hate crimes. Even though bullying is not considered a hate crime, the report notes that bullying incidents are significant and should be addressed by educators, parents, and students in order to work towards active prevention. Overall, enhanced training of law enforcement officers and increased availability of resources are a clear path towards improved response to hate crimes. Based on these findings, the Commission makes the following specific recommendations:

  • Congress can improve law enforcement’s ability to report hate crimes to the FBI through both legislation and funding, which will assist in building accountability and community trust.
  • Congress can ensure hate crime data is reported to the FBI from states and federal agencies through legislative measures.
  • The Trump Administration can reactivate Department of Homeland Security (DHS) groups that specifically analyze domestic terrorism threats, and can reinstate grants to groups which counter white supremacist terror.
  • Law enforcement agencies should be more diligent in investigating “hate incidents”, even if they do not meet the escalated legal definition of a “hate crime”.
  • At the state level, legislation should be passed that clearly defines hate crimes and hate incidents.

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Author: Kendall Scherr

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