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Responding to Hate. The Role of Human or Civil Rights Commissions in Hate Crime Response. Jake Beckwith AmeriCorps VISTA Iowa Human and Civil Rights Project of AmeriCorps VISTA and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission May, 2008 (515) 281-3041

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responding to hate

Responding to Hate

The Role of Human or Civil Rights Commissions in Hate Crime Response


Jake Beckwith

AmeriCorps VISTA

Iowa Human and Civil Rights Project of AmeriCorps VISTA and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission

May, 2008

(515) 281-3041

* The author and Iowa Civil Rights Commission give expressed permission for the use or publication of this material to all relevant local agencies.

roles and community response
Roles and Community Response
  • The responsibility of investigating a reported hate crime belongs to law enforcement.
  • The responsibility of charging and prosecuting the offenders belongs to the prosecuting attorney.
  • The role of facilitating a proper response can belong to a local Human Rights or Civil Rights Commission (HRC).
why a response is important
Why a response is important
  • Silence means acceptance
    • If we do not respond to hate crime, we send a message to the victim and perpetrator that intolerance is okay.
  • A report released by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General in 2001 indicates that many hate crimes are escalations of other incidents that do not get a proper response (Wessler and Moss, 5).
  • A U.S. Department of Justice 2005 study of hate crime reporting indicates that only about 40% of all bias motivated incidents are reported to authorities (Harlow, 2).
iowa demographic outlook
Iowa Demographic Outlook
  • The population of Iowa is very rapidly becoming more diverse (all stats from U.S. Census).
    • The Latino-American population has increased by 30% since 2000.
    • The Asian-American community has grown by 19%.
    • African-American community has grown by nearly 10%.
    • Estimates project that by 2010, 90% of all new growth in Iowa will be attributed to minority groups.
      • From 2000-2006 minorities accounted for approximately 60% of growth in Iowa.
hate crime trends
Hate Crime Trends
  • African Americans are the most frequent victims of hate crime in Iowa, accounting for nearly 60% of reported hate crime victims. Homosexual men are the second most targeted group (Iowa DPS).
  • Hate Crime against Latinos nationally is up 30% in the last 5 years (FBI).
    • Latinos account for the largest and fastest growing minority in Iowa.
  • The number of annually reported hate crimes in Iowa is around 30, except for a jump in 2002 when 48 hate incidents were reported (Iowa DPS).
hate in iowa
Hate in Iowa

A sample of Hate in Iowa for 2007:

  • Des Moines (Assault) Jassimen Dobbins and Angela Wade, both 19, were charged with first-degree burglary and third-degree arson for allegedly beating a gay teenager with a bottle, stabbing him with a fork, and stealing $5, his ATM card and his driver's license before setting his bag on fire.
  • Ottumwa (Criminal Mischief) Matthew A. Lanman, 17, was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime for allegedly hanging a dead opossum and a note insulting Blacks and Latinos in a school bathroom.
  • Marshalltown (Vandalism, Theft) Racial slurs and graffiti were spray painted and the family’s Christmas presents stolen at the home of a minority family supporting Barack Obama.
  • Cedar Rapids (Vandalism) Racial Slurs, swastikas, and threats including a hangman’s platform and the words “Leave Now” were painted on the home of a couple living on SW Mallory Street on Christmas Eve.
elements of an effective response
Elements of an Effective Response
  • Reporting
    • Reported to local law enforcement, or authority for investigation.
    • Receiving and/or publicizing reports from law enforcement of bias related incidents.
  • Victim Support
    • Reassurance, safety, and listening
      • Developing a list of procedures or do’s and don’ts
    • Connecting to resources
      • Iowa Attorney General’s Victim Assistance Program
    • Assessing needs (Medical, Emotional, et cetera)
  • Public Denunciation
    • Action that condemns the hate crime, takes a position against intolerance, supports the targeted community
    • Should be proportionate to the crime
what a human or civil rights commission can do
What a Human or Civil Rights Commission can do
  • Open up a dialogue with community partners such as law enforcement, city officials, organizations and schools about networking against bias.
    • Sharing incident reports
      • Law enforcement can notify HRC or City, set up communication chain with other community stakeholders
    • Work with schools on combating bias and hate.
      • Many universities have bias response teams (UNI)
      • Work with community schools to enforce the Safe Schools Law
    • Discuss obtaining training on hate crimes such as is offered by the US DOJ Community Relations Service or ADL(see resources)
      • Possibly for Law Enforcement, the community, schools et cetera
    • Discuss establishing a response plan and policy
      • Similar to fire plan
best practices
Best Practices


  • Advocate to the city council to create a statement and proclamation to support social and racial tolerance and end bigotry.
    • Oak Park, Illinois
  • Create a pledge to diversity or racial justice and encourage people or businesses to sign on.
    • Beloit, Wisconsin
  • Establishing and publishing a hate crime response plan.
    • Fargo, ND; Edina, MN; Shoreview, MN; Dubuque, IA
  • Start a bias crime network or task force
    • Flint, Michigan

Best Practice

Hate Crime Network or Task Force

  • Some cities have established a “network” against bias.
    • Incorporates all the elements of hate crime response.
    • Consists of representatives of community stakeholders such as schools, city government, civic organizations.
      • Set goals to facilitate hate crime reporting.
        • Sharing incident reports with other organizations.
      • In the incident of a hate crime, they will have someone available to contact and support the victim.
      • Would determine and plan an appropriate public response.
public response
Public Response
  • Develop a Toolkit of options (Public Forum, Vigil, Statement in the Media)
  • Iowa Civil Rights Commission Toolkit –

Promotion and Prevention

  • Schools
    • Safe schools law
    • Programs that encourage tolerance
  • Community Projects
    • Programs encourage tolerance/ cultural understanding
  • Distributing Information and Educating
    • Brochures, posters, news articles, workshops
  • Anti-Defamation League
    • Blueprint for combating bias and hate crime
    • Regional Office: Omaha, Nebraska - (402) 333-1303
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
    • Intelligence Report
    • Campus Hate Crime Resource
  • U.S. Dept. of Justice – Community Relations Service
    • Regional Office: Kansas City, MO – (816) 426-7434
  • Statistics
    • FBI Uniform Crime Report (Available at FBI website)
    • Iowa Department of Public Safety Uniform Crime Report
  • Wessler, Stephen and Moss, Margaret. Hate Crime on Campus: The problem and efforts to confront it. Bureau of Justice Assistance. October 2001.
  • FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2006.
  • Harlow, Caroline Wolf. Hate Crime Reported by Victims and Police. Bureau of Justice Statistics. November 2005.
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety Uniform Crime Report, 2005.
  • Lockyer, Bill. Reporting Hate Crimes. California Attorney General’s Office. 2003.
  • Hate Crime Report. LA County Commission on Human Relations. 2005.
  • Hate Crime Network and Community Response. Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crime. November, 2007.
  • U.S. Census Bureau, 2006.