The United States Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the United States Department of Justice, and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, held a day-long training on Oct. 28 for local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement, as well as advocacy organizations and community leaders on the topic of identifying and investigating hate crimes.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Oregon
The training was held on the anniversary date of the passage of the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.
The training brought nearly 100 people together, representing law enforcement, as well as state, regional, and national community representatives covering the range of interests of the protected classes under the Act.
The training featured information on federal and state hate crimes statutes, with particular emphasis on the importance of accurate reporting of hate crimes, as well as a community panel on how law enforcement and the community can work together to bring awareness and prevention of hate crimes.
Several guest speakers presented throughout the day, including Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, after whom the statute was named, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, and Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers.
Representatives from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided case studies to help provide context for the legal complexities of prosecuting such cases. The training is part of the Department’s nationwide effort to provide training on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to local law enforcement entities, and to increase awareness on the importance of reporting such crimes.
Acting United States Attorney Billy J. Williams said the involvement of the community in such training is key to successful enforcement of hate crimes.
“Being able to live safely in one’s community is one of the most basic civil rights. In a diverse nation like ours, every one of us must be able to live, go to school, and work without fear of being attacked because of how we look, what we believe, where we come from, or whom we love,” she said “My office is committed to working with the Civil Rights Division, Law Enforcement, and the community to properly investigate and prosecute those who commit hate crimes.”
“On the long road to passing this law, Dennis and I always kept in mind the true purpose, which was to not only see that justice is done for hate crime victims and their loved ones, but more importantly to educate the public about the sheer size of this problem and the community about the exact ways it can protect them,” Shepard said. “Trainings like these are vital to ensure the Act delivers its full potential.”
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act enables the Justice Department to prosecute crimes motivated by race, color, religion and national origin without having to show that the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity. The Shepard-Byrd Act also empowers the Department to prosecute hate crimes committed because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability of the individual targeted.
In late 2014, the FBI released its annual Hate Crime Statistics report for 2013. (Read the report at at fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2013).
According to the report, 5,928 hate crime incidents involving 6,933 offenses were reported by state and local law enforcement partners to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program in 2013.
These hate crime incidents impacted a total of 7,242 victims – defined as individuals, businesses, institutions, or society as a whole. This report was the first UCR publication to contain data collected under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009.
Underreporting of such crimes remains a significant concern. According to data provided in the report, thousands of police departments did not report data to the FBI, and of those that did, only about 12 percent reported one or more hate crimes. More than 80 cities with populations over 100,000 either did not participate in the reporting program, or affirmatively reported zero hate crimes to the FBI.
“We must seize this time as an opportunity to redouble our efforts to work together to improve reporting of hate crime data in order to understand, to the fullest extent, the issues facing our communities today,” Acting U.S. Attorney Bill Williams said.