Posted on February 27, 2019 in Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 27, 2019

CONTACT: Tess Waggoner

twaggoner@aaiusa.org | (202) 429-9210

AAI Testifies in Support of Maryland Hate Crime Training Bill

ANNAPOLIS, MD - On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, AAI Executive Director Maya Berry testified before the Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee, in support of H.B. 699, which would instruct the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to require law enforcement training on identifying, reporting, and responding to hate crimes. Del. Lesley Lopez (D-39) introduced the bill, which is based on draft legislation submitted by AAI. For more AAI resources on hate crime, click here

Testimony of Maya Berry

Executive Director, Arab American Institute

Before the Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee

In Support of H.B. 699

February 26, 2019

Good afternoon, Chairman Clippinger, Vice Chairwoman Atterbeary, and fellow members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Maya Berry and I am the Executive Director of the Arab American Institute (AAI). I am also a Maryland resident. In attendance with me is Kai Wiggins, AAI’s policy analyst. Thank you for holding this hearing and inviting AAI to speak in support of H.B. 699, which would direct the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to require police training on the criminal laws concerning hate crime and the appropriate treatment of hate crime victims.  

Founded in 1985, AAI is a national organization devoted to the political and civic empowerment of Arab Americans. Historically, the threat of hate crime and targeted violence has prevented our community from full participation in the democratic process. Given this historical perspective, not to mention the reported nationwide increase of hate crime in recent years, we are committed to improving the response to hate crime in American communities across the board. Last year we published a comprehensive study of laws and policies designed to prevent hate crime in every state and the District of Columbia. We have continued this research, and in 2019 will release our inaugural Hate Crime Index.  

As proposed, the required training would include instruction on how to identify victims of hate crimes, how to respond to hate crimes in a manner that is sensitive to victims and their communities, how to notify hate crime victims of their rights, reporting the incidence of hate crime, and following state procedures on the collection and analysis of hate crime data. We support these requirements, as they would promote not only greater accountability of law enforcement to hate crime victims and their communities, but also the provision of more accurate hate crime statistics. 

Accountability to Hate Crime Victims and Communities 

National survey data from the Department of Justice indicate that most hate crimes are not reported to law enforcement.4 Among the reasons cited for non-reporting is a belief that police could not do anything or would not help. Indeed, many Americans that are vulnerable to hate crime belong to communities that have strained relationships with law enforcement. For example, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 100 percent increase of anti-Arab hate crimes in 2017, Arab Americans might be reluctant to interact with law enforcement due to a history of discriminatory profiling and surveillance in the name of “national security.” 

The proposed training requirements will incentivize greater law enforcement accountability to hate crime victims and their communities, and provided their effective implementation, could help mitigate some of the tensions between community and police that contribute to non-reporting. Among the proposed requirements, instruction for law enforcement on the provision of information regarding victim services outside of the criminal justice system is one we find particularly promising, and something the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) identifies in its model hate crime policy

An effective response to hate crime requires trust and collaboration between law enforcement and communities. This training would facilitate important steps in that direction. That the training is mandatory will also promote a sense among trainees that hate crime is real, and its prevention, critical.  

More Accurate Hate Crime Statistics 

Under the Hate Crime Statistics Act, or HCSA, the FBI collects data on hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies participating in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. According to the FBI, the total number of hate crime incidents reported nationwide increased 17 percent in 2017 over 2016 totals. This represents the largest single-year increase and the first three-year consecutive annual increase since 2001, when hate crimes targeting Arab Americans and American Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, surged in the aftermath of 9/11.

We know from the survey data cited earlier in this testimony that most hate crimes go unreported to law enforcement. While this trend certainly contributes to an undercount in official hate crime statistics, many incidents that get reported to law enforcement never make their way into the data. Even some of the most high-profile hate crimes in recent years, including the killing of Khalid Jabara in Tulsa, Okla., on August 12, 2016, and the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va., exactly one year later, were not reflected in the FBI’s annual statistics. Furthermore, we have seen significant discrepancies emerge between state and federal hate crime statistics.  

According to state statistics here in Maryland, law enforcement agencies reported 183 verified hate/bias incidents, which may or may not include criminal activity, in 2017. If we turn to the federal data, we see a total of 48 incidents reported that year. The FBI only collects data on hate crimes and not bias incidents, and so we should expect a discrepancy between the state and federal totals. However, given that state statistics in Maryland provide only a compound total of hate crime and bias incidents, using the public-facing data we cannot determine whether state and federal statistics on hate crime in Maryland are consistent. 

While state law requires police reporting of hate crimes and related incidents, education and training are important factors when considering the accuracy of hate crime data. The incorporation of the proposed training requirements, which include reporting the incidence of hate crime and following state procedures on the collection and analysis of hate crime data, will ensure the provision of more accurate hate crime statistics in this state. This will benefit stakeholders, the legislature, and law enforcement, all of whom desire a more complete understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime in our communities.  

Conclusion 

As a final comment, we recommend that community stakeholders are consulted in the development and implementation of the training required under this legislation. Thank you once again for having us speak on this important issue.  

 

For more information please contact Tess Waggoner at twaggoner@aaiusa.org or call (202) 429-9210.

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Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org.