Federal Hate Crime
Response Initiatives: A 1999 Status Report
The Federal Government has an essential leadership role to play
in confronting criminal activity motivated by bigotry and in promoting
prejudice reduction initiatives for schools and the community.
I. The 106th Congress
In the first session of the 106th Congress, lawmakers approved
significant budget increases for Federal civil rights enforcement,
but failed to act on important legislation designed to facilitate
Federal investigations and prosecutions of violent bigotry.
The Hate Crime Prevention Act (HCPA):
Closing Gaps in Federal Law
State and local law enforcement officials play the primary role
in the prosecution of hate violence. The Federal Government, however,
also has authority to address a limited number of cases either because
the crimes have a particular Federal connection or because local
officials are either unable or unwilling to handle the case effectively.
The Hate Crime Prevention Act would strengthen existing Federal
hate crimes laws in two ways. Under current law, 18 U.S.C. Sec.
245, the government must prove both that the crime occurred because
of a person's membership in a designated group and because (not
simply while) the victim was engaged in certain specified Federally
protected activities - such as serving on a jury or attending public
school. The HCPA would eliminate these overly restrictive obstacles
to Federal involvement, which have prevented government from involvement
in many cases in which individuals kill or injure others because
of racial or religious bias.
Second, the HCPA would authorize the Department of Justice to assist
local prosecutions, and, where appropriate, investigate and prosecute
cases in which the bias violence occurs because of the victim's
sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Existing Federal law
does not provide authority for involvement in these cases at all.
Currently, only 21 states include sexual orientation-based crimes
in their hate crimes statutes, 20 states include coverage of gender-based
crimes, and 22 states include coverage for disability-based crimes.
Hearings were held in both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees
in the first session of the 106th Congress. The Senate included
the HCPA as part of the Commerce State Justice Appropriations bill
(CSJ). The House-approved CSJ measure did not include the HCPA and
the House-Senate Committee that met to reconcile differences removed
the HCPA from the bill. Despite significant efforts, White House
negotiators were unable to insert the measure in the final omnibus
The HCPA has been endorsed by 22 State Attorneys General and over
100 national law enforcement agencies, civil rights groups, religious
denominations and local government associations. Supporters of the
legislation will try to build on support from more than 40 Senators
and 185 Representatives to secure passage of this critical legislation
before Congress adjourns in fall, 2000.
II. White House Leadership
Over the past two years, the Clinton Administration has demonstrated
a strong commitment to improving race relations and addressing hate
violence in an inclusive and comprehensive manner. President Clinton
has spoken out repeatedly in support of enactment of the HCPA. Building
on the success of the historic November 1997 White House Conference
on Hate Crime, Administration officials - especially Attorney General
Janet Reno - continue to provide support for a number of diverse
new Federal initiatives designed to address prejudice and bias-motivated
criminal activity. Among the most promising are the following:
Federal Law Enforcement Hate Crime
A comprehensive new hate crime training curriculum for law enforcement
officials has now been presented at over 140 regional and state
train-the-trainers conferences. Teams of law enforcement officials,
victim assistance professionals and civil rights and community relations
professionals have trained more than 4,000 law enforcement officials.
Hate Crime Working Groups
At the direction of Attorney General Janet Reno, U.S. Attorneys
in many of the 94 judicial districts have established or assisted
in strengthening Hate Crime Working Groups, composed of state and
local police and sheriffs, FBI agents, prosecutors and representatives
from civil rights groups and community-based organizations. Through
regular meetings, these groups provide forums for discussing sources
of community tensions, developing hate crime response protocols
and building relationships between law enforcement officials and
International Association of Chiefs
of Police (IACP) Hate Crime Summit
In June 1998, the IACP held a two-day national summit on hate violence
in America. Police officials, academics, civil rights professionals
and prosecutors came together to discuss the nature of the problem
and to identify promising methods to address it. In January 1999,
the IACP published an excellent Summit Report, which includes a
number of practical suggestions on preventing and responding to
bias-motivated criminal activity.
Recommendations from the Summit Report are available at http://www.theiacp.org.
The American Prosecutors Research
Institute (APRI) Resource Guide for Prosecutors
Funded by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance
(BJA), the APRI, the research arm of the National District Attorneys
Association, is developing a comprehensive desk manual for prosecutors
for identifying, responding and preventing hate violence. The desk
manual contains information about case screening, investigations,
trial preparation and sentencing alternatives. The manual will form
the centerpiece for the development of a training curriculum specifically
designed for prosecutors.
`Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police
Officers Guide to Investigation and Prevention'
This new guidebook, developed by the International Association
of Chiefs of Police under a grant provided by the Department of
justice, highlights the essential components of an effective response
for police officers who are the first to arrive at the scene of
a bias crime. The pamphlet outlines steps for authorities to take
to preserve the evidence, approaches to assisting victims, and strategies
for preventing hate violence. Under a grant from the justice Department's
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)and Office for Victims of Crime, 450,000 copies of the guidebook
will be distributed to law enforcement officers across the country.
Hate Crime training Roll-Call Video
With an introduction by Attorney General Janet Reno, this 20-minute
video is designed for police roll-call training sessions. Under
38 another BJA grant, this video will be distributed to all 14,000
state and local law enforcement agencies in the nation. The video,
which outlines investigative techniques and bias indicators and
describes victim assistance and community relations issues, is accompanied
by an Instructor's Guide which contains Frequently Asked Questions
and several additional case scenarios for discussion.