KY Joins States Protecting Police Under Hate-Crime Laws

Kentucky’s “Blue Lives Matter” law makes it a hate crime to target police officers, a legislative trend sweeping a number of states. At the same time, lawmakers in New York, Connecticut and Illinois are responding to surging reports of hate crimes against racial, religious and ethnic minorities by trying to strengthen laws and policies that target criminal bias.

Report: Federal Hate Crime Charges Extraordinarily Rare

The United States is on pace for twelve convictions on federal hate crime charges during fiscal year 2015, according to a report from the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Since federal hate crime legislation was passed in 2009, the government has achieved just 29 convictions, including eight so far during fiscal year 2015. The most achieved during any year was in 2012, when 10 people were convicted on federal hate crime charges. The report notes that federal prosecutors turn down significantly more hate crime cases than they pursue. “Prosecutors turned down 235 out of the 270 total hate crime referrals received since the law’s passage in 2009 — a whopping 87.0 percent,” researchers write in the report, which comes as national attention has turned to a federal government considers hate crime charges against Dylann Roof, accuses of killing nine people in a massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The three most common reasons federal prosecutors gave for turning down hate crime referrals, according to the report, were insufficient evidence, lack of evidence of criminal intent, and weak or insufficient admissible evidence.

BJS: Majority of Hate Crimes Are Ethnic Bias

There was little change in the total number of hate crimes nationwide between 2004 and 2012, but the amount motivated by ethnic and religious bias drastically increased during that time, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). About 293,800 nonfatal violent and property hate crime victimizations occurred in the United States in 2012, according to BJS. Up slightly from 2004 when an estimated 281,700 occurred. In 2004, about 22 percent of hate crimes were attributed to ethnicity bias; in 2012, that motivation represented more than half (51 percent) of hate crimes. The findings are based on BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey, “which measures nonfatal crimes perceived by victims to be motivated by an offender's bias against them because they belong to or are associated with a group largely identified by characteristics designated in the Hate Crimes Statistics Act,” according to BJS.