U.S. Department of Justice Moderates Forum to Discuss Hate Crimes
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa invited the citizens of Black Hawk County to participate last night in a forum to discuss hate crimes and bias incidents. A representative from the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) served as the moderator.
Pursuant to the Hate Crimes Protection Act, CRS is authorized to work with communities to help them develop the capacity to prevent and respond more effectively to violent hate crimes allegedly committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. CRS is a remarkably unique federal component dedicated to assisting state and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups develop local capacity to prevent racial and ethnic tensions.
Joining in the forum were representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Black Hawk County Attorney and Sheriff’s Offices, Waterloo Police Department, Waterloo’s Human Rights Commission, and the Cedar Falls Police Department. The forum was sponsored by University of Northern Iowa – UniCue, One Iowa, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Waterloo Commission on Human Rights.
United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau expressed appreciation to the agencies involved and the community members attending for their willingness to discuss in a positive way an issue communities across the country sometimes encounter. Techau stated, “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of all people. Last night’s meeting was an opportunity to discuss the topic of hate crimes in a safe environment. Hate crimes represent an attack not just on the individual victim but also on the victim's community. The impact is broader because they send a message of hate. They are intended to create fear. Hate crimes diminish us all. We are committed to working with all communities to address the issue by working to prevent hate crimes as well as investigate and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever necessary.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt provided information on the federal statutes that criminalize various types of hate crimes. He covered the evolution of federal hate crime law and the recent expansion of the groups protected by federal hate crime laws.
Morfitt emphasized that the defining characteristic of a federal hate crime is that the actions must have been motivated by hate and that an individual cannot be found guilty federally unless the government proves the person acted “because of” the victim’s status as a member of a protected group. As an example, Morfitt pointed to the case of United States of America v. Randy Metcalf, where the government recently proved at trial that a Dubuque resident had assaulted an African American man in a local bar because of his race.
Presentations were made by the Black Hawk County Attorney and Sheriff, Waterloo Chief of Police, Cedar Falls Police Department, FBI Resident Agent in Charge for Iowa-Nebraska, and the Waterloo Human Rights Commission. A conciliation specialist with DOJ’s Community Relations Service served as the moderator and engaged the presenters and those attending with fact-building hypotheticals designed to challenge the meaning of hate crimes and bias incidents. Those attending actively engaged the panel in a Q&A session.
To learn more about the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, visit: https://www.justice.gov/crs.
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