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Hate Crimes Legislation and New Actions to Improve Hate Crimes Reporting

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President Clinton Urges Prompt Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation and Announces New Actions to Improve Hate Crimes Reporting

September 13, 2000

Today, President Clinton will announce a study that assesses hate crime reporting over several years, demonstrating that hate crimes are greatly under-reported, and will issue a directive to the Department of Justice to work with state and local law enforcement on strategies to improve hate crimes reporting. The President will be joined today by the Deputy Attorney General, as well as by Sherialyn Byrdsong, the widow of former Northwestern basketball coach, Ricky Byrdsong, who was gunned down in a hate-motivated shooting spree and David O'Malley, a member of the Laramie Police Department who helped to investigate the Matthew Shepard case. Finally, the President will call on the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate's lead in voting in favor of Federal hate crimes legislation.

STUDY ON HATE CRIMES REPORTING. Today, the President will announce a new report "Improving the Quality and Accuracy of Bias Crime Statistics Nationally: An Assessment of the First Ten Years of Bias Crime Data Collection," which was funded by the Department of Justice. This report, by Northeastern University and the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA), discusses current hate crimes trends; provides survey results from law enforcement respondents; lists barriers to accurate hate crime reporting; and provides recommendations on how to improve reporting. This report concludes that hate crimes are under-reported for several reasons, including victims' failure to report to the police; lack of training; and problems of forwarding bias crime data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Some of the report's findings include:

  • Eighty-three percent of the over 10,000 city, county, and state law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Hate Crime Data Collection Program reported that no hate crimes had occurred in their jurisdiction during the previous year.
  • Survey results also show that of the agencies reporting zero hate crimes to the FBI, 31 percent indicated that their department had investigated and reported one or more incidents of hate crimes. These data demonstrate a disconnect between what line officers believe and what is reported to the FBI. Extrapolating this data, the report estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 additional agencies may have encountered hate crimes that were not reported to the national program.
  • Eighty-five percent of law enforcement officers responding to a survey believed that hate-motivated crimes are more serious than similar crimes that are not motivated by bias.

DIRECTIVE TO IMPROVE HATE CRIMES REPORTING. In response to the report, the President will direct the Department of Justice to work with state and local law enforcement agencies, including relevant law enforcement organizations, to develop a plan to improve hate crimes reporting within 120 days. The Department of Justice is already planning to meet with representatives of state and local law enforcement organizations later this month. In addition to this meeting, the Department will consider in its plan whether various actions, such as the following, would improve hate crimes reporting:

  • Pilot programs in jurisdictions where law enforcement agencies reported zero incidents of hate crimes;
  • A study to analyze the role that juvenile offenders play in the number of hate crimes committed each year;
  • Training sessions by federal law enforcement on identifying and reporting hate crimes; and
  • Activities by the U.S. Attorney Hate Crimes Working Groups to work with community groups and local law enforcement to improve hate crimes reporting in their areas, including helping to bring more victims forward to the police.

URGING PASSAGE OF EXPANDED FEDERAL HATE CRIMES LAW. The President today will urge the House to vote in favor of hate crimes legislation. In June, the Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of hate crimes legislation by a vote of 57 to 42. The vote in the U.S. House of Representatives will be the first vote in that chamber on hate crimes legislation. This legislation would enhance the Federal government's ability to prosecute violent crimes motivated by race, color, religion, or national origin and would authorize Federal prosecution of crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, or disability. This legislation also recognizes that state and local law enforcement still have primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. This legislation provides much-needed assistance for state and local law enforcement agencies that seek it. It provides financial assistance through grants and help with investigations and prosecutions so that Federal, state, and local law enforcement can partner together to ensure that perpetrators of hate crimes are brought to justice.

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