Posted by Kai Wiggins on August 10, 2018 in Blog

Sunday marks the second anniversary of the murder of Khalid Jabara, who was killed on the front porch of his Tulsa, Oklahoma, home on August 12, 2016. The killer, who lived next door to the Jabaras, was convicted of first-degree murder, a hate crime, and two misdemeanors. This tragic, preventable hate crime, featured as a case study in Underreported, Under Threat, was not reported in official FBI hate crime statistics.

In our case study, we draw extensively from a powerful interview that Arjun Singh Sethi, a civil rights lawyer and activist, conducts with members of Khalid’s family for his new book, American Hate: Survivors Speak Out. Speaking with Khalid’s two siblings, Victoria and Rami, and his mother, Haifa, Sethi crafts a moving testament to Khalid’s interminable legacy and unique capacity for sensitivity and compassion. In addition, Sethi retraces the sequence of events preceding his tragic murder, events that should have prompted a more proactive response from law enforcement.

Despite numerous indications that Khalid’s eventual murderer posed an imminent threat of violence, and even after the family filed a restraining order against him, local authorities failed to effectively intervene. In September 2015, the man ran over Haifa Jabara in his car. After posting a reduced bond, he was released and moved back into the neighborhood. He served just eight months. Weeks later, Khalid was dead, slain in cold blood on the front porch of his family home. The circumstances of the case are considered in greater depth in both American Hate and Underreported, Under Threat. However, these details alone demonstrate that Khalid’s death was preventable.

As we observe the second anniversary of Khalid Jabara’s death, we should continue to amplify the voices of hate crime victims and their loved ones while advocating an improved response to hate crime in American communities. That response must be multifaceted. We should support the passage of state-level hate crime statutes offering inclusive protections for hate crime victims, requirements for hate crime reporting and data collection, and extensive basic and in-service hate crime training for law enforcement personnel.

While the state of Oklahoma has a hate crime statute, the statute is not sufficiently inclusive, as it does not offer protections for crimes committed because of sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. With respect to hate crime reporting and data collection, state code requires law enforcement agencies to submit hate crime data to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). While the OSBI does not publish state-level hate crime statistics, the bureau forwards all hate crime data collected under state authority to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. Each year, the FBI UCR Program publishes hate crime data from law enforcement agencies across the country in the report, Hate Crime Statistics.

According to the most recent edition of Hate Crime Statistics, a total of 33 hate crime incidents were reported in Oklahoma in 2016. The five largest jurisdictions in the state reported .84 hate crime incidents per 100,000 people, well below the national average. The Tulsa Police Department, representing a population of over 400,000, reported a single hate crime incident in 2016. According to federal statistics, that incident occurred between April and June of 2016. There were no incidents reported that August, the month Khalid Jabara was murdered.

One of the highest profile hate crimes in 2016 was never recorded in official statistics. That should raise concern over the quality and accuracy of our national hate crime data. Better data is not the only answer to preventing hate crime in American communities, but it is one of them. Communities, advocates, and policymakers need accurate and representative data to inform their response to hate crime. Furthermore, a commitment to hate crime reporting and data collection promotes not only accurate statistics, but also robust enforcement of hate crime statutes and greater attention toward hate crime in individual departments. So too does comprehensive basic and in-service hate crime training for law enforcement personnel: if police officers receive the proper training and are not only instructed, but encouraged, to report hate crime incidents and enforce hate crime statutes, they will be more likely to take hate crime seriously.

In future posts, we will consider the spectrum of hate crime prevention that exists among police departments across the country. While much of our research has focused on the state and federal response, the effort to prevent hate crime at the local level is critical. If we consider the case of Khalid Jabara, that fact becomes obvious.