FBI Unveils New Hate Crimes Training Manual

Around Tu Bsh’vat it’s hard not to think of the Talmudic story of the old man planting a tree. The man is asked by a passerby why he is wasting his time planting a tree that he will never reap the fruits of. He responds, I may never but my children might, and their children will. Too often that is the story of our work for social justice – we will never live to see the results of our struggle, but we struggle anyway so that someday someone will.

But, every once in a while, we get to witness the fruits of our many years of labor. This week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its excellent new guide, Hate Crime Data Col­lec­tion Guide­lines and Train­ing Man­ual.

This updated manual, mandated by the Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, provides the most extensive categorization of hate crime targets, investigation and reporting guidelines, and potential scenarios to date. This information promises to be a valuable tool as the FBI and local police departments collaborate to detect and prosecute the crimes of hate and bias that still plague our society.

Importantly, this guide presents the most detailed definitions and descriptions of violence against the transgender community. According to the most recent hate crimes report from the FBI, violence against transgender individuals remains a significant concern. Moreover, there has been concern in the trans-rights community that law enforcement has not been well equipped to identify and pursue violence against trans people. This manual could be a significant step toward fixing this serious problem.

The Religious Action Center has continually advocated for effective hate crimes legislation for nearly two decades. Speaking immediately after the passage of the landmark Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, Rabbi David Saperstein articulated why this issue is so critical for the Jewish community: “As the quintessential victims of religious persecution in the history of Western civilization, the Jewish community knows all too well that hate crimes are more than mere acts of violence. They are nothing less than attacks on those values that are the pillars of our republic and the guarantors of our freedom. They are a betrayal of the promise of America.“

That day was a victory for equal rights and justice in America, and this week was another milestone in that journey. Yet there is much work left to do to ensure that all people are safe from bias-motivated violence. In the wake of this summer’s attack on the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the RAC joined the Anti-Defamation League and a host of religious and civil rights organizations calling on the FBI to begin tracking violence against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab-Americans. As Rabbi Saperstein said this year in testimony submitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “We had no illusions that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act would end hate crimes. Yet the law was and remains an essential tool to combat these crimes based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity that degrade our nation.”

This law must continue to be implemented and here at the RAC we will continue to work toward more perfect guidelines. Tools like the Hate Crimes Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual must continue to be developed. And adaptations, like the addition of our Hindu, Sikh and Arab American brothers and sisters must continue to be made.

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About Benny Witkovsky

Benny Witkovsky is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant, he is from Madison, WI, and recently graduated from Vassar College.

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