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Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum

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The Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum is a half-day session that provides community members and law enforcement with information related to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as well as state and local hate crimes laws. The program engages local and federal law enforcement, district attorneys, civil rights organizations, and community organizations in discussions and information sharing on methods to combat and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes.

Program Goals

  • Identify best practices for how to prevent and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes
  • Improve participants’ understanding of local, state, and federal hate crimes laws and ways to report alleged hate crimes
  • Build a multi-party working group tasked with addressing hate crimes issues
  • Identify federal, state, and local resources, programs, and tools to help prevent and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes

Forum Includes the Following Components

  • Panel of law enforcement experts provides an overview of federal, state, and local hate crimes laws
  • Panel of community leaders discusses the challenges facing diverse communities when responding to bias incidents and hate crimes
  • Panel of federal, state, local law enforcement experts and community leaders discusses resources in the aftermath of bias incidents or hate crimes

Case Highlights

A local community organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, requested CRS services to help address community tensions in the aftermath of an alleged hate crime. Community tensions stemmed from an incident in November 2019 involving a white male suspect who reportedly threw battery acid in the face of a Latino male allegedly due to his race and national origin. CRS met with representatives from the local community organization and a coalition of community organizations to develop strategies to work through differences and defuse conflict in the community.

In December 2019, CRS facilitated a CRS Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum for over 100 attendees. The forum provided participants the opportunity to engage in a community dialogue surrounding the incident to de-escalate tensions. Forum panelists, which included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, local elected officials, community leaders from two local organizations, and the victim of a recent hate crime, provided participants with information about hate crimes and hate crime investigation and prosecution processes.

Participants asked the forum panelists questions to gain more insight into and understanding of hate crimes and participated in breakout groups to develop actionable steps to address issues relating to the alleged hate crime and how to prevent future, similar incidents from occurring in their community.

In September 2020, CRS conducted a virtual Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum in response to community tension following an alleged hate crime against a Sikh business owner that involved both assault and vandalism.

In April 2020, a white man entered a Lakewood, Colorado, liquor store and began knocking items off the counter and yelling that Sikh business owners did not belong in the country because they were from the Middle East. The perpetrator fled to his car, allegedly running over the business owner when he attempted to record the car’s license plate, leaving the owner hospitalized for a month with extensive injuries. The assailant was charged with a hate crime and attempted murder, in addition to other charges. The community believed the motivation for the attempted murder was due to the victim’s perceived national origin and religion.

Following the incident, CRS began to discuss ways to address the resulting community tension with Colorado Sikh Temple leadership. In July 2020, CRS began facilitating meetings with Sikh and other community members to plan a forum for the Sikh community that would include a hate crimes briefing, information about where and how to report hate crimes, and an update on the pending charges against the assailant.

An audience of 25 community members and federal law enforcement attended the virtual forum, hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado (USAO-CO) and facilitated by CRS. During the forum, presenters shared information on federal, state, and local hate crimes laws, as well as methods to combat and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes. Presenters included representatives of the Denver field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), USAO-CO, Denver County District Attorney’s Office, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Office/Hate Free Colorado, Sikh Coalition, and an international civil and human rights organization. An FBI field agent also provided interpretation services in Punjabi during the program.

More Information

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated January 2, 2024