Cheryl Hiers of Nashville recently learned she was a suspect in a hate crime. Hiers, 47, learned it not from a police officer The Tennessean newspaper, about 15 months after Metro police reported American flags put up by her neighbor were stolen. The flags were being shown disrespect by being left out in the elements, Hiers said. police classified the case as an “Anti-America” hate crime. Stealing a flag, or any other politically motivated act, however, is not a hate crime under federal or state definitions. The improper reporting in Hiers’ case was among problems The Tennessean found while reviewing records of suspected hate crimes investigated by Metro police in 2003.
Improperly filled-out paperwork led police to over-report the number of hate crimes that occurred in Davidson County in 2003 to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Police reported 26 incidents, when there were really only 12 that met the criteria. Other cases were classified incorrectly – such as an anti-gay hate crime that was reported as an anti-heterosexual crime. Police are taking steps to improve hate crime reporting and investigations because of the newspaper’s findings. In 2002, The Tennessean reported that Metro police were not tracking hate crimes as required by federal law.