Policing Hatred

Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime

Jeannine Bell
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 227
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qggmr
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  • Book Info
    Policing Hatred
    Book Description:

    Policing Hatred explores the intersection of race and law enforcement in the controversial area of hate crime. The nation's attention has recently been focused on high-profile hate crimes such as the dragging death of James Byrd and the torture-murder of Matthew Shepard. This book calls attention to the thousands of other individuals who each year are attacked because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. The study of hate crimes challenges common assumptions regarding perpetrators and victims: most of the accused tend to be white, while most of their victims are not. Policing Hatred is an in-depth ethnographic study of how hate crime law works in practice, from the perspective of those enforcing it. It examines the ways in which the police handle bias crimes, and the social impact of those efforts. Bell exposes the power that law enforcement personnel have to influence the social environment by showing how they determine whether an incident will be charged as a bias crime. Drawing on her unprecedented access to a police hate crime unit, Bell's work brings to life the stories of female, Black, Latino, and Asian American detectives, in addition to those of their white male counterparts. Policing Hatred also explores the impact of victim's identity on each officers handling of bias crimes and addresses how the police treat defendants' First Amendment rights. Bell's vivid evidence from the field argues persuasively for the need to have the police diligently address even low-level offenses, such as vandalism, given their devastating cumulative effects on society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3793-4
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    The brutal killing in Texas of James Byrd, a Black man, brought hate crimes to the fore of the public agenda in the late 1990s. In early June of 1998 three White men chained Byrd behind a truck and dragged him to death. Byrd’s killing was widely recognized as a “hate” or bias crime. A bias crime is one motivated by prejudice toward one of the victim’s characteristics, such as race, color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and the perpetrator of the crime usually does not share that characteristic with the victim.¹ In the wake of Byrd’s murder, many activists...

  6. 2 The Framework of Police Decision-Making in Hate Crime Cases
    (pp. 12-27)

    For both procedural and practical reasons, in hate crime cases the police play a critical role as criminal justice gatekeepers. Most bias-motivated violence and intimidation statutes have two parts. First, they require an underlying crime. Second, they require motivation in part by a proscribed hatred.¹ Thus, in order to charge individuals under these statutes, prosecutors must show evidence of bias motivation. As is so for most other crimes—murders, burglaries, rapes—it is the police who are responsible for investigating, building a case, and later identifying and classifying bias crimes. If the police determine a case to be a hate...

  7. 3 Integration and Hate Crime: The Institutionalization of Civil Rights Law
    (pp. 28-47)

    In most cities incidents of harassment such as that directed at the Jones family would be referred to police officers assigned to the area in which the incident occurred and, like most low-level crimes—crimes without serious injuries—would not be investigated. Though the FBI pressures state and local police departments to report hate crimes, they are not required to have specialized hate crime units. Departments have complete discretion over the institutional mechanisms they create to enforce hate crime law. In fact, perhaps fearing that a hate crime unit’s statistics will dramatize the level of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism in...

  8. 4 Investigation: Detectives and the Making of Hate Crime
    (pp. 48-82)

    For an incident to be identified as a hate crime by police detectives, it must pass through a multilayered process, which begins with a formal investigation of the incident. This chapter focuses on that process. I examine formal procedures the unit developed for investigating civil rights violations and the realities that inevitably arise: detectives’ routines and informal practices.

    In many large cities, a citizen’s call to 911 sets in motion a process that may include several individuals. The 911 operator contacts a dispatcher in the operations division, describes the incident and its location, and assigns it a code based on...

  9. 5 The Difficulty of Hate Crime Investigation
    (pp. 83-112)

    As the previous chapter suggests, for detectives, the initial part of constructing hate crime requires assembling basic information regarding who committed the incident in question and why. Investigation is the process through which detectives acquire this information about crimes. The previous chapter emphasized detective control over the initial process of making crime. Detectives may decide which crimes they will investigate based on their judgment regarding what has happened. Once they decide to investigate, however, there is a potential for a shift in the balance of power because when investigating a crime, detectives have limited control over access to the types...

  10. 6 Police Culture and Hate Crime
    (pp. 113-133)

    In police departments, organizational norms constitute a powerful force in shaping police behavior. Organizational norms set standards of behavior for patrol officers, detectives, and members of the command staff. In a job that is quite generally unstructured, norms provide guidance regarding the treatment of witnesses and suspects, guidance on how to prioritize cases, and guidance as to which charges should be sought.¹ When courts, policy makers, or higher-ups in the police department change legal rules or procedures, they must take into account organizational norms that predate the changes. As Skolnick writes, “[N]orms located within police organization are more powerful than...

  11. 7 The Decision to Seek Charges
    (pp. 134-159)

    In cases in which a suspect was identified, once the investigation was completed, ABTF detectives had to decide how the incident was going to be handled. This chapter explores the wide range of options available to detectives and how they decide among them. The chapter also describes the detectives’ perspective regarding the kinds of cases appropriate for criminal civil rights violations or bias crime charges, and the kinds in which the detectives are reluctant to invoke the law. At the chapter’s close, I present a model showing how detectives make decisions in hate crime cases.

    If a suspect is identified,...

  12. 8 Prosecutors and the Courts
    (pp. 160-180)

    An ABTF detective’s decision that bias crime charges are warranted does not mean that hate crime charges will be filed against the perpetrator. The police are not alone in deciding what becomes a hate crime. Charges for bias-motivated crime and civil injunctions prohibiting further bias-motivated conduct were produced by a system in which three other actors—the office of the district attorney (DA), the office of the attorney general (AG), and district court clerk magistrates—also had significant roles in determining whether alleged hate crimes would be prosecuted. Assistant district attorneys (ADAs) in the DA’s office were responsible for approving...

  13. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 181-190)

    This book describes in great detail the significant discretion that police officers have to define hate crimes and, in doing so, to name social reality. This power, I argue, is largely unrecognized by both opponents and supporters of hate crime legislation. The power of the police is not, however, what has prevented legislatures from passing hate crime laws. Instead, the political and intellectual debate on hate crime is dominated by three main concerns: (1) that hate crime legislation is special protection for minorities; (2) that hate crime legislation will be enforced in a way that violates the First Amendment; and...

  14. APPENDIX: Research Methodology—A Peek behind the Curtain
    (pp. 191-202)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-222)
  17. Index
    (pp. 223-226)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 227-228)