7-4 Hate Crime Investigations
Policy Type: Local
Responsible Office: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department
Initial Policy Approved: 9/4/2013
Current Revision Approved: 6/1/2016
The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for identifying and investigating hate crimes and assisting victimized individuals and communities. Any acts or threats of violence, property damage, harassment, intimidation, or other crimes motivated by hate and bias and designed to infringe upon the rights of individuals are viewed very seriously by this agency and will be given high priority. This agency shall employ all necessary resources and vigorous law enforcement action to identify and arrest hate crime perpetrators. Also, recognizing the particular fears and distress typically suffered by victims, the potential for reprisal and escalation of violence, and the far-reaching negative consequences of these crimes on the community, this agency shall be mindful of and responsive to the security concerns of victims and their families. A swift and strong response by law enforcement can help stabilize and calm the community as well as aid in a victim’s recovery.
All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.
- HATE CRIME – A criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias.
- NOTE: For Clery Act reporting purposes, a hate crime is defined as any Murder and Non-negligent Manslaughter; Manslaughter by Negligence; Sexual Assault, including Rape, Fondling, Incest and Statutory Rape; Robbery; Aggravated Assault; Burglary; Motor Vehicle Theft; Arson; Larceny-Theft, Simple Assault, Intimidation, or Destruction/Damage/ Vandalism of Property that was motivated by bias.
- BIAS – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, or disability.
- The following categories are defined as hate crime biases by the Clery Act:
- RACE – A preformed negative attitude toward a group of persons who possess common physical characteristics, e.g., color of skin, eyes, and/or hair; facial features, etc., genetically transmitted by descent and heredity which distinguish them as a distinct division of humankind, e.g., Asians, blacks or African Americans, whites.
- GENDER – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a person or group of persons based on their actual or perceived gender, e.g., male or female.
- RELIGION – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons who share the same religious beliefs regarding the origin and purpose of the universe and the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being, e.g., Catholics, Jews, Protestants, atheists.
- SEXUAL ORIENTATION – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Sexual Orientation is the term for a person’s physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual (straight) individuals.
- GENDER IDENTITY - A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a person or group of persons based on their actual or perceived gender identity, e.g., bias against transgender or gender nonconforming individuals. Gender non-conforming describes a person who does not conform to the gender-based expectations of society, e.g., a woman dressed in traditionally male clothing or a man wearing makeup. A gender non-conforming person may or may not be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person but may be perceived as such.
- ETHICITY – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, common culture (often including a shared religion) and/or ideology that stresses common ancestry. The concept of ethnicity differs from the closely related term “race” in that “race” refers to a grouping based mostly upon biological criteria, while “ethnicity” also encompasses additional cultural factors.
- NATIONAL ORIGIN – A preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of people based on their actual or perceived country of birth. This bias may be against people that have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin.
- DISABILITY – preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their physical or mental impairments, whether such disability is temporary or permanent, congenital or acquired by heredity, accident, injury, advanced age or illness.
- The following categories are defined as hate crime biases by the Clery Act:
- HATE INCIDENT – Those actions by an individual or group that, while motivated by hate or bias, do not rise to the level of a criminal offense.
- HATE GROUP – An organization whose ideology is primarily or substantially based on antipathy, hostility, or hatred toward persons of a different race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender and/or gender identity.
- Officers shall conduct a thorough and complete investigation of all suspected and confirmed hate crimes and assist the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office with prosecution. Evidence related to all hate incidents shall be thoroughly documented.
- All officers of this department shall receive instructions on both hate crime investigations and community-police relations.
- Detectives shall make every effort to become familiar with organized hate groups operating in the community.
Initial Response Procedures
- Initial responding officers at the scene of a suspected hate crime shall take preliminary actions deemed necessary, including, but not limited to:
- Secure the scene, request medical aid if needed and increase police presence to protect victims and witnesses.
- Collect physical evidence such as hate literature, spray paint cans, and symbolic objects used by hate groups, such as swastikas and crosses.
- Request the assistance of a translator, when necessary.
- Request the assistance of a supervisor and brief their on actions taken.
- Conduct a preliminary investigation and document information from victims and witnesses on suspected perpetrators.
- Record statements made by suspects; exact language is critical.
- Identify prior bias-motivated occurrences in the immediate area or against the same victim.
- Assist detectives in complying with any federal or state hate crime data collection reporting requirements.
- The supervisor shall:
- Notify other appropriate personnel in the chain of command, depending on the nature and seriousness of the offense and its potential inflammatory and related impact on the community.
- Provide immediate assistance to the victim by:
- Expressing empathy and showing a sincere interest in their well-being.
- Explaining the law enforcement agency’s official position on the importance of these cases.
- Telling the victim about measures that will be taken to apprehend the perpetrator(s) and the probable sequence of events in the investigation and prosecution.
- Explaining security measures and precautions that will be put in place.
- Expressing the department’s interest in protecting victims’ anonymity whenever possible.
- Allowing the victim a period in which to express their immediate concerns and feelings.
- Communicate with concerned community-based organizations, university groups, and religious institutions regarding the suspected or confirmed hate crime.
- Identify individuals or agencies that may provide support and assistance. These may include University Counseling, family members, close acquaintances, clergy, and/or community service agencies that provide victim assistance, shelter, food, clothing, child care, or other related services.
- Ensure that all relevant facts are documented on an incident or arrest report or both and make an initial determination as to whether the incident should be classified as a hate crime for federal and state bias and Clery Act crime-reporting purposes.
Investigating Officer/Detective Responsibilities
- The investigating officer/detective shall:
- Ensure that the scene is properly protected, preserved, and processed and that all physical evidence of the incident is removed as soon as possible after the offense is documented. If evidence of an inflammatory nature cannot be physically removed (i.e., painted words or signs on a wall), photographs should be taken and the owner of the property should be contacted to do all that is possible to ensure that the graffiti is removed as soon as possible. The investigating officer/detective shall follow up to ensure that this is accomplished in a timely manner.
- Conduct a comprehensive interview with all victims and witnesses at the scene, or as soon as possible thereafter, and canvass the neighborhood for additional personal sources of information.
- Work closely with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to ensure that a legally adequate case is developed for prosecution.
- Coordinate the investigation with other local, state, and regional intelligence operations in order to identify any patterns, organized hate groups, and/or suspects potentially involved in the offense.
- Maintain contact with the initial responding officer and keep their apprised of the status of the case.
- Make a final determination based on evidence and facts as to whether the incident should be classified as a hate crime.
- Determine the primary elements of the crime and obtain the information necessary to complete the federal and state hate crime data collection requirements and Clery Act reporting procedures.
- Take steps to ensure that appropriate assistance is being provided to hate crime victims, to include the following measures:
- Contact the victim periodically to determine whether he or she is receiving adequate and appropriate assistance.
- Provide ongoing information to the victim about the status of the criminal investigation.
- Attempt, whenever possible, to conduct all interviews with victims at their convenience and minimize, to the degree possible, interactions in which victims have to relate the incident.
Rules for Counting Hate Crime for Clery Act Purposes
- Hate Crimes are counted in the same manner that the offenses are when they are not Hate Crimes, except that the Hierarchy Rule does not apply to Hate Crimes.
- All bias-motivated offenses shall be counted in a multiple-offense hate incident. Statistics for each offense shall be disclosed separately.
- In reporting the number of Hate Crimes, you must include only the crimes that are bias-motivated as Hate Crimes in a multiple-offense incident.
- For any Criminal Offense that is also a Hate Crime, your statistics should indicate the offense and also the offense with the category of bias. For example, if an Aggravated Assault is a Hate Crime, include one Aggravated Assault in the statistics in the Criminal Offenses category and one Aggravated Assault motivated by (category of bias) in the Hate Crime category.
- The exception is when the Aggravated Assault is not included in the Criminal Offenses category because of the hierarchy rule. For example, for a single incident involving both a Rape and an Aggravated Assault that were both Hate Crimes, include only the Rape in the Criminal Offenses category and both the Rape and the Aggravated Assault in the Hate Crimes category.
- Before an incident can be classified as a Hate Crime, sufficient objective facts must be present to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by bias.
External Relations and Crime Prevention
- Hate crimes are viewed in the community not only as a crime against the targeted victim(s), but also as a crime against the victim’s identification group as a whole. To this end, the VCUPD’s external relations function shall:
- Work with segments of the larger community after such crimes to help reduce fears, stem possible retaliation, prevent additional hate crimes, and encourage any other previously victimized individuals to step forward and report those crimes, especially if an upward trend has been identified.
- Provide victim(s) with a point of contact in the department to whom they can direct questions or concerns, and keep them informed of the case progress including the end result of the investigation or prosecution.
- Protect the privacy of the victim and his or her family as much as possible.
- Provide any direct assistance reasonably possible and referral assistance to the victim and their family.
- Meet with neighborhood groups, residents in target communities, and other identified groups to allay fears; emphasize the agency’s concern over this and related incidents; reduce the potential for counter-violence and reprisals; and provide safety, security, and crime prevention information.
- Engage the media as partners in restoring victimized communities through sensitive and accurate reporting. Information regarding hate crimes should be prepared for the media in an accurate and timely manner.
- Conduct public meetings or forums designed to address the community-wide impact of hate crime and violence in general.
- Establish liaisons with formal community-based organizations and leaders to mobilize resources that can be used to assist victims and prevent future hate incidents and crimes.
- Expand, where appropriate, preventive programs such as hate, bias, and crime reduction seminars for students.
This policy supersedes the following archived policies:
9/4/2013 - 7-4 Hate Crime Investigations