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Urging Prompt Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation

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Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton called on the House of Representatives to follow the Senate's lead in passing federal hate crimes legislation. The President announced the release of a study that demonstrates that hate crimes are greatly under-reported, and issued a directive to the Department of Justice to work with state and local law enforcement on strategies to improve hate crimes reporting. The President was joined by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder; Cherialynn Byrdsong, whose husband Ricky was gunned down in a hate-motivated shooting spree; and Laramie Police Officer David O'Malley, who helped to investigate the Matthew Shepard case.

URGING PASSAGE OF EXPANDED FEDERAL HATE CRIMES LAW. The President urged the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the hate crimes legislation which the Senate passed in June. 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. Recognizing that state and local law enforcement still have primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, this legislation would provide them with much-needed assistance, such as grants and help with investigations and prosecutions to ensure that perpetrators of hate crimes are brought to justice.

ANNOUNCING A STUDY ON HATE CRIMES REPORTING. Today, the President announced 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. The report concludes that hate crimes are under-reported for several reasons, including victims' failure to report them to the police, lack of training, and problems with forwarding hate-crime data to the FBI. Some of the report's findings include:

  • 83% of the over 10,000 city, county, and state law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI's Hate Crime Data Collection Program reported that no hate crimes had occurred in their jurisdiction in the previous year;
  • Of the agencies reporting zero hate crimes to the FBI, 31% indicated that their department had investigated and reported one or more hate crimes, demonstrating a disconnect between what officers believe and what is reported to the FBI. Based on 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; and
  • 85% 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.

ISSUING A DIRECTIVE TO IMPROVE HATE CRIMES REPORTING. In response to the report, President Clinton directed the Department of Justice to work with state and local law enforcement agencies and relevant organizations to develop a plan within 120 days to improve hate crimes reporting. The Department of Justice is meeting with representatives of state and local law enforcement organizations later this month, and will consider strategies to improve hate crimes reporting, including the following:

  • Pilot programs in areas where law enforcement agencies reported zero incidents of hate crimes;
  • Determining 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.

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