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As hate crimes continue to disrupt communities across the U.S., the latest numbers from the Department of Justice show thousands of law enforcement agencies declined to submit any data on the amount of hate crimes taking place in their communities. It’s time for President Biden to take matters into his own hands.
The FBI recently released its annual report on hate crimes statistics in December, and the numbers don’t add up.
Ever since Congress passed the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, the FBI has been required to release an annual report on bias crimes gathered from police departments across the nation. Yet there’s a major flaw.
While the FBI is required to release the annual reports, police departments aren’t required to submit data. Their role is completely voluntary.
Despite an explosion of hate crimes taking place during the height of the pandemic in 2020, the latest figures from the FBI show the number of hate crimes fell in 2021 to 7,303 from a high of 8,263 in 2020.
Many police departments refuse to submit hate crime data
Researchers around the nation sounded the alarm at the questionable statistics, according to NPR.
The reported drop in hate crimes in 2021 illustrates a mismatch with the continuous videos and news articles of hate crimes against Black Americans, Jews, Muslims, 2SLGBTQIA people, Indigenous people, and other ethnic and religious minorities. Notably, each year Black Americans are more often victims of hate crimes than any other group in the nation.
Yet the numbers make a bit more sense when you look at another striking data point.
Only 11,883 agencies out of 18,812 (or 63% of) city, state, municipal and tribal law enforcement agencies sent data to the FBI.
With murderous mass shooters and ludicrous lawmakers creating a climate of fear and conflict, police departments refusing to report this important data to the Department of Justice reflects a grave injustice and a dereliction of duty.
Biden must take immediate action
President Biden soared to the White House with a message of waging a battle for the soul of the nation. Recording accurate data on the level of prejudice-based crimes taking place in American communities is crucial to that fight. If police departments refuse to support democracy and social stability, Pres. Biden must respond with the only effective tool at his disposal.
The president should use his executive powers to tie federal police funding to mandatory hate crimes data reporting. Police departments that refuse to participate should be denied federal dollars.
Since its first report in 1991, FBI hate crimes statistics have been critically flawed. There has never been full participation by law enforcement, a fact noted by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Known for tracking hate groups and their activities around the nation, the SPLC recently published an article titled, “Consistently Inconsistent: Thousands of law enforcement agencies fail to provide hate crime data to the FBI.”
“The 2021 HCSA data is even more drastically incomplete than previous years’ data, to the extent that any comparisons between last year and previous years are almost meaningless,” SPLC wrote.
Echoing those concerns, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged the lack of reporting at a congressional hearing in November.
“Some jurisdictions fail to report hate crime statistics, while others claim there are no hate crimes in their community – a fact that would be welcome, if true,” Director Wray told federal lawmakers.
Preventing hate crimes starts with knowing the full picture
Nevertheless, the idea of threatening to rescind federal funding for the police continues to be met with resistance from most Republicans and Democrats alike.
Like any politician who weighs decisions based on popular polling, Biden may find it difficult to convince Americans that tying federal police funding to mandatory hate crimes data reporting is a practical solution.
Yet for the family of Katherine “Kat” Massey, a 72-year-old grandmother and gun violence prevention activist who was gunned down in Buffalo by a white supremacist mass shooter, nothing remains more difficult than mourning the loss of a loved one.
I’m sure it’s difficult for the Asian American woman who survived a brutal, unprovoked beating in Yonkers to walk the streets without fear.
And I’m sure it’s difficult for the 21-year-old Black shooting victim in California to understand why he was targeted after simply exiting his Airbnb to go to the grocery store.
In a country where police kill over 1,000 civilians annually with little to no accountability, it is crucial that Biden take this simple step in addressing hate crimes.
We can have all the roundtable discussions we want, but if we can’t even receive an accurate picture of the amount of hate crimes taking place by those sworn to protect and serve, we aren’t serious about achieving preventive solutions.
The battle for the soul of the nation is being waged daily. It’s time for Biden to take immediate action.