Policing Hate Crimes: a comprehensive Law Enforcement Response to Human Rights Violations in the osce region

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Policing Hate Crimes: A Comprehensive Law Enforcement Response to Human Rights Violations in the OSCE Region

James J. Nolan, III James Brown

West Virginia University Toronto Police Service


Hatred and discrimination by one group against another has existed since the beginning of time. Tribal factions in conflict, cultural intolerance, racial hatred, these are but a few of the manifestations of mankind’s coping mechanisms for dealing with differences. There are many theories that describe why humans feel more comfortable in known surroundings, how human long for consistency and structure, and why change and difference bring about stress. Even in our children we see the need for consistency and structure. Difference between people in customs, cultures and beliefs’ has long been the cornerstone of conflict and intolerance.

However, as people mature and develop coping mechanisms for managing change, we strive to help our communities and societies mature and to also cope with shifting paradigms, changing values and changing demographics. However, all people in our communities do not find such changes easy, and some individuals rebel against change, against difference and against diversity.
The manifestation of this rebellion can take on many forms, and we can think of these as an escalating ladder of intolerance, ranging from the unspoken thoughts and feelings of distrust and dislike, to the benign acceptance of bias, to the spoken words of intolerance, to the active measures displaying hatred and culminating in the violence of hate crimes.
The concept of hate crimes has existed since the emergence of communal values and the breeching of those values for reasons of hate. However, it is only in recent history that we have given this new moniker to this action, the violent manifestation of intolerance we now know as “hate crime”.
As our communities began developing the concepts of universal human rights, we began to understand the depth and breadth of the assault on those rights that hate crimes committed, for they are not a crime against a single person or place, but they are attacks against a group, a community or a people.
Although definitions of the term hate crime may vary across states and nations, in its most fundamental form, a hate crime can be defined as a criminal act in which the victims were targeted because of their group membership. Consider some recent accounts of hate crimes from online international news sources:
“three skinheads …were accused of beating up two Tajiks in the town of Berdsk, about 20 kilometers from the regional of Novosibirsk, and of participating in the September 2005 attack on a local workshop that employed mainly Uzbek nationals, which left four foreign workers hospitalized with various injuries…. A search of their homes revealed nationalist and extremist literature” (RIA Novosti, December 28, 2006)
“A refugee who saw people beheaded and raped in Sudan has been told to go back to her own country and called ‘stupid nigger’ in the Hobart bus mall. Paska Ochilo, who was walking with her 15 year old sister Pamella, was abused, mugged, and bashed by a group of up to 10 teenagers and young adults on Friday… Acting Inspector David Richardson said the abuse had been ‘exceptionally racist.’” (Nationwide News Pty Limited, Hobart Mercury—Australia, December 20, 2006).
“Four German men face charges after a racially motivated attack against two student from Israel and Yemen in the eastern city of Magdeburg, police said Sunday. The students were set upon in a tram on Friday afternoon by five men, who punched them and uttered racial slurs. One of the attackers threatened the students with a knife, witnesses said. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 7, 2007).
Hate crimes like the ones described above appear to be on the rise in some European countries according to the 2006 annual report of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). This report indicates that of the eleven EU member states that provide enough hate crime data to establish trends, eight of these countries have experienced a general upward trend in hate crimes (Germany, France, Poland, Slovakia, Finland, and the UK), while three of the eleven states have experienced a general downward trend (Czech Republic, Austria, and Sweden. The EUMC cautions that these general trends may indicate real increases or decreases in hate crimes, however, they might also be explained by new laws and recording practices. The report also points out the deficiencies in the existing data on hate crimes in the EU. This is not surprising since the category of hate crime is relatively new.
Proponents of hate crime legislation argue that these crimes are different than ordinary crimes, and, therefore, worthy of special attention. Hate crimes are often meant to send a message to the victims—and to their entire group--that they are not welcome and they are not safe. Researchers have found that hate crime victims often suffer more psychological and physical trauma than victims of similar crimes that are not motivated by bias. (Levin, 1999, Levin & McDevitt, 1993). For example, where reports of all crimes of “assault” in a particular jurisdiction are examined, the ones motivated by hate will tend to be more violent, as measured by the physical and psychological injuries to the victims. In addition, some research suggests that hate crimes have a greater impact on the overall peace and tranquility of a community, because these crimes affect so many people and because they have the potential to spark retaliation and long-term inter-group conflict (Weisburd & Levin, 1994).

Responding to Hate Crime in the OSCE Region
In today’s modern world, the arm of the government responsible for ensuring the preservation of the communities rights to order and safety, are the police services in all their manifestations. They are the people who are responsible for ensuring that the basic and fundamental rights to peace, order and security. However in many communities the police are now moving into the role of defining new thresholds of human rights. Today’s modern police services are taking on the roles as agents of social change through their actions and enforcement efforts. This ranges from police action in such areas as drinking and driving to domestic violence to hate crimes.
In the role of combating hate crimes, police help set community standards through their response efforts, their deportment and the professionalism in handling crimes that are attacks against communities.
This is not a role that may be intuitive for all police services, but it is one that is closely linked to the concepts embodied in Community Based Policing. Further, the combating of hate crime in a community requires the police to engage non-governmental organizations in this fight, and to help communities build their capacity to defend themselves and to combat hate crimes.
This is the initiative that has been taken by the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) through their Law Enforcement Officers Programme in Combating Hate Crime in the OSCE Region (LEOP).
The mandate for the OHDIR to drive forward on this issue stems from the 11th Ministerial Council meeting in Maastricht in December 2003, when the Foreign Ministers of the then 55 OSCE participating States restated their continued commitment to “promote tolerance and combat discrimination, including manifestations of aggressive nationalism, racism, chauvinism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and violent extremism in the OSCE participating states” (OSCE, June 2005). Since this meeting the OSCE has mandated and empowered the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to be more involved with helping law enforcement agencies recognize and respond to hate crimes, with the design and delivery of the LEOP Programme, in cooperation with police experts from more than six OSCE participating States, who continue to develop training programmes for law enforcement officers on combating hate crimes and collecting hate crime statistics.
The LEOP Programme philosophy is the result of our work in the field of community engagement and police training over the past two decades. Two of the key principals that we have integrated into this programme are:

  1. Police learning is most embraced and accepted when designed and delivered by police practitioners who have “real world” experience in the field and can speak about their personal successes, and;

  1. The success of any police initiative is predicated on the level of community engagement and acceptance in the programme, and as such the early engagement of non-governmental organizations in the consultative and programme development stage of the LEOP Programme creates an early “buy-in” phase, which results in their commitment to the programme and their collaborative efforts to achieve success.

What began as a concept and commitment in late 2004 has evolved into an international training and development programme that has touched over 20 participating States within the OSCE through the collaborative efforts of an international implementation team comprised of law enforcement executives from over 6 countries, and growing with every implementation.

One of the key features of the programme, is the flexibility it provides to participating States, since the focus is on police response to hate crimes, the programme is not predicated on existing legislation or an established definition that existing within specified parameters, rather we focus on the police of the police service as the provide of community security and safety and how they can engage with non-governmental organizations to assist with community recovery following a hate crime incident.
The programme has four main components:

  1. Training for police officers on all aspects of hate crime, including the initial response, investigation, gathering intelligence, sharing information, and working with prosecutors.

  1. Developing strategies to combat hate crimes that are based on proactive police leadership and community-based partnerships.

  1. Developing an effective process for collecting and dissemination data on hate crime across jurisdictions.

  1. Training prosecutors on how to use evidence to establish that a crime has been committed.

Each of these components is designed to support the preservation and enhancement of human rights and minority rights within the host countries.

The curriculum is based on the most up-to-date research on causes and consequences of hate crime. It includes good practices in preventing and responding to hate crimes and the most effective law enforcement practices for combating hate crimes.
The results and benefits of the LEOP programme include the commitment of participating states to either modify or enhance their existing legislation to embrace the principals and philosophies identified within the LEOP programme and/or their commitment to institutionalize the LEOP training components within their national police curriculum.
How LEOP Works
Once a national (or local) government decides to participate in the programme, the training group from ODIHR conducts a needs assessment within the host country. The team calls upon a diverse group of experts from within the country, including members of the police agency, prosecutors, judges, NGOs and other community-based organizations that focus on preventing crime or helping victims of crimes. The goal of the needs assessment is not to identify historical problems within the police organization, but to identify collaborative opportunities for citizens, NGOs and police to work together to tackle a mutual problem, i.e., hate crime.
Based on the results of the needs assessment, a customized training session is developed and delivered by the training team. Below is a list of customized topics that are regularly covered during the training phase of the program:

  • Definitions relating to hate crimes

  • The history and significance of hate crimes

  • A typology of hate crime offenders

  • Symbols of interest in hate crimes

  • Understanding the nature of prejudice and discrimination

  • The impact of hate crimes on victims and communities

  • Investigating hate crimes, including evidence detection and interview techniques

  • Gathering and sharing intelligence on hate crimes and hate offenders

  • Helping victims of hate crimes

  • Collecting hate crime data

  • Police leadership in the fight against hate crimes.

In the delivery of the training, the LEOP Programme uses internationally skilled police facilitators who have a vast experience at community consultation and civic engagement. To date, the LEOP Programme has provided hate crime training and support to the national police from 15 countries. In addition, Spain, Hungary and Croatia have institutionalized the training into their national police training curriculum. The LEOP training staff provide programme participants with a broad spectrum of training materials, including facilitators and participants workbooks, facilitators resource manuals, PowerPoint slide presentations, training DVD’s and access to the ODIHR’s Law Enforcement Officer hate crime data base, which includes dozens of reports and articles, documented good practices and investigative aids and tools for front line officers, as well as community support tools for community liaison officers. While it is ultimately the responsibility of each country to customize the training material for their own specific environment, the LEOP training team provides on-site support to the national police trainers of the participating state.

Police, Community and Human Rights
The common string that binds together all the elements of this programme, the rationale for participation and the impact on communities is the issue of the protection of basic human rights, including personal safety, protection of property, basic choices and freedoms irrespective of ones group membership or affiliation.
Through the support, engagement and collaboration of non-governmental organizations and international human rights organization, the LEOP Programme has been able to successfully integrate definition, human rights concepts and local community values into the programme as it evolves and expands with each new participating State. International human rights organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and Helsinki Commissions in various participating states have provided their intellectual efforts in support to this initiative while at the same time they have voiced their international support for the concept and the programme.
The LEOP Programme continues to extend far beyond the classic “police training programme” and seeks to involve and engage key elements of the community in the classic community policing model. By doing so, the programme successfully raises community awareness about the requirement to provide protection and security to all sectors of society, and by doing so ensuring the basic human rights that each government guarantees to all of their citizens.
The LEOP offers a comprehensive law enforcement training program developed to raise the awareness and capacity of law enforcement officials and to identify and respond effectively to hate crimes, and to serve as a concrete tool to assist OSCE participating States meet their commitments to fighting against racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and discrimination.
However, this unique program also successfully facilitated many positive police community relations meetings with grassroots organizations, police officials, NGO’s, religious leaders and citizens. The meetings focus on both safety and basic human rights issues and provided opportunities for expanded discussions, improved understanding, and implementation of new strategies for resolving differences.
When a community loses trust and confidence in its policing service, the effects are serious—often deadly. It is a direct threat to a nation’s existence. All one need do to illustrate this point is to study any of the riots and or acts of civil disobedience that have resulted from acts of alleged police misconduct and the perceived violation of human rights.
There appears to be a strong and direct correlation between police services that enjoy

broad public support and those that know how to effectively communicate with the

community. In those communities where a police agencies reputation is poor or has been

damaged, it is usually as a result of the agency leadership failing to maintain open lines of communication with the community.

Human Dimension Policing Intervention Strategies
There are several innovative components of the LEOP Program that have sought to bridge these types of cross- cultural and institutional barriers. In some of the OSCE states where LEOP was presented, the program promoted a series of meetings between the police and minority communities which in some cases for the first time brought together concerned NGO leaders, effectively educating them about law enforcement policy and procedure. NGO leaders have directly participated in LEOP training, which allowed for not only an opportunity to learn about police procedure, but also an opportunity to develop long term relationships and open new lines of communication that would not otherwise be available. NGO trainers shared experiences and educated officers on human rights issues concerns of their citizenry.
A primary feature of the LEOP Program is facilitation of on-going dialogue between the minority and NGO community and law enforcement personnel. – Historically, it has been difficult to bring these two groups together. However, LEOP through low key, facilitated discussions, has already yielded significant benefits in terms of a better understanding about what resources each side can provide to the other for building peaceful solution to conflict.
LEOP has demonstrated the ability to reach audiences across a broad spectrum of the communities – The greater the ability to reach the overall community, the greater the impact for a peaceful outcome...

The Role of the OSCE
The ODIHR’s commitment to this programme is based on several principals, one of this being that the police are part of the solution not part of the problem, and that police agencies and police officers can be agents of positive social change. The ODIHR Director Ambassador Christian Strohal is a staunch promoter of the LEOP Programme in his role as the principal defender of human rights in the OSCE Region. His vision, support and commitment have resulted in the great successes that this programme has achieved. While he has promoted and advanced the vision and principals of the LEOP programme, there is still a requirement to put each of these into action, and that comes down to an issue of the personal drive and commitment of the Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Programme of the ODIHR, Jo-Anne Bishop, who has focused her boundless energy on moving this programme into such a diverse group of participating States across the OSCE region.
The LEOP Programme continues to expand across the OSCE region and engage new participating States in the programme. Modest targets that were set at the commencement of the programme have been far exceeded, and it is the hope of the authors that all the participating States of the OSCE will come to benefit from this programme that is so critical to the advancement of human rights.
For more information on the LEOP, please contact ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-discrimination Programme at tolerance@odihr.pl or go to the programme website at www.osce.org/odihr.
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