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October 15, 2014

The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Five Years Later

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), enacted into law on October 28, 2009, is the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years.Matthew_Shepard_and_James_Byrd,_Jr._Hate_Crimes_Prevention_Act

The HCPA encourages partnerships between state and federal law enforcement officials to more effectively address hate violence, and provides expanded authority for federal hate crime investigations and prosecutions when local authorities are unwilling or unable to act.  Importantly, the HCPA adds sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the groups which previously had federal protection against hate crimes – race, color, religion and national origin.

For more than a dozen years, the Anti-Defamation League led a broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations advocating for the HCPA. The legislation was stalled by fierce opposition from some conservative organizations — and, for eight years, by President George W. Bush — in large part because it provided new authority for the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute cases in which members of LGBT communities were targeted for violence.  Energetic support by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.  was essential to achieving final passage of the measure.

The HCPA has proven to be a valuable tool for federal prosecutors.  The Department of Justice has brought more than two dozen cases over the past five years – and has successfully defended the constitutionality of the Act against several constitutional challenges.

Enactment of the HCPA also sparked a wel­come round of police train­ing and out­reach – and the devel­op­ment of a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant new hate crime train­ing and pre­ven­tion resources, including an updated Hate Crime Model Policy prepared by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Yet, much work remains to be done.  Hate crimes remain a serious national problem. In 2012 (according to the most recent data available) the FBI documented more than 6,500 hate crimes – almost one every hour of every day. The most frequent were motivated by race, followed by religion and sexual orientation.  Of the crime motivated by religion, more than 60 percent targeted Jews or Jewish institutions.

Unfortunately, more than 90 cities with populations over 100,000 either did not participate in the FBI 2012 data collection program or affirmatively reported zero (0) hate crimes. That is unacceptable. As FBI Director James B. Comey said in remarks to the 2014 ADL Leadership Summit, “We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts in every jurisdiction the need to track and report hate crime. It is not something we can ignore or sweep under the rug.”

The fifth anniversary of the HCPA provides an important teachable moment.  It is a fitting occasion for advocates, the Obama Administration, and Congress to promote awareness of the HCPA, to report on the progress our nation has made in preventing hate violence, and to rededicate ourselves to effectively responding to bias crimes when they occur.

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October 28, 2013

Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Four Years Later: Demonstrating Its Value

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).  The HCPA is the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive hate crime enforcement law enacted in the past 40 years. In addition, passage of the act has sparked a welcome round of police training and outreach – and the development of a number of significant new hate crime training and prevention resources. hate-crimes-prevention-act-HCPA

It is appropriate to pause to reflect on the extraordinarily broad coalition ADL was privileged to lead in support the HCPA – including over 250 civil rights, education, religious, civic, and professional organizations and, crucially, virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country. Originally drafted in 1996, progress on the bill was stalled, Congress after Congress, because of persistent, adamant – and erroneous – concerns about the impact of the bill’s coverage of hate crimes directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation. In the end, even after 13 long years of advocacy, with the strong support of President Obama and Attorney General Holder, the measure still had to be attached to “must-pass” legislation – the Department of Defense FY 2010 Authorization bill – in order to be enacted into law.

But now, four years later, advocates cannot doubt that the titanic efforts to enact the HCPA by Senate and House champions and the hate crime coalition were worthwhile. Here are highlights of some of the important advances since the enactment of the HCPA, Public Law 111-84.

­Training

  • Lawyers from the Department of Justice (DoJ) Civil Rights Division, FBI agents, and professionals from DoJ’s Community Relations Service have trained thousands of state and local law enforcement officials from more than a dozen states on the HCPA’s new tools and federal-state partnership opportunities.  

Enforcement

  • DoJ has investigated dozens of cases and has brought indictments in about 20 cases, including several cases in states that lack their own hate crime laws.    
  • Under the expanded authority of the HCPA, Justice Department lawyers have provided forensic and other investigative assistance to state and local law enforcement officials prosecuting cases under their state laws. 
  • In coordination with several lead US Attorneys, DoJ has vigorously defended the HCPA in both facial and as applied constitutional challenges. 

Hate Crime Data Collection

Resources

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