Among the many issues creating conflict in the U.S. today, hate crime policies and the ideologies behind them remain sources of intense debate. Supporters tend to hold that the designation more directly addresses justice and strikes at the core causes of much violent crime, while others argue that it is fundamentally unjust and irrational to prosecute and sentence based upon the criminal’s motivation. Personally, I take the latter position, and chiefly because relying on motive both defies justice rationale and opens the door for invalid mitigating circumstances to be considered, and “hate crime” is an inherently subjective determination. In the following, I present the basis for my views and recommend that community policing, in which greater understanding exists between the law and citizens, be expanded as much as possible to better counter the underlying forces of hate crimes.
On one level, the motivations leading to hate crime policy are completely explicable. It is usual that, when hatred for a particular group fuels the crime, victims are subjected to extremes of violence, so it is reasonable that the criminal’s primary intent becomes a focus. On another level, however, this is far too broad an approach to ethically or practically address such crime. To begin with, and ironically, hate crime is simultaneously emphasized as a specific kind of criminality and defined in virtually limitless ways. Both different societies and communities within a society perceive it in remarkably varying ways (Chakraborti, 2015, p. 1742). In plain terms, identifying the hatred relies on what the society deems most unacceptable at any given time, and this cannot justly be a standard for determining guilt and applying sentencing. Ethically, it is irrational to even seek to comprehend how emotional impulses based on hatred fuel crime, just as any such approach confuses the critical realities of the nature of the crime. In my estimation, the law exceeds its authority in such efforts because it is unduly concerned with psychology and emotion, when the law exists to address, and redress, actual circumstances of crime based on the events of it.
Then, there is the important matter of whom such an approach serves: “The subjective, lived experience of a crime victim is not necessarily improved by the additional information about this crime having been a hate crime” (Brax & Munthe, 2015, p. 1690). Criminality as such must be diffused as a reality, then, because the identified hatred is a mitigating element, even when applied in prosecution. As I perceive it, this translates crime into a social issue, rather than a matter of law and justice. Certainly, the hate crime ideology creates immense defense opportunities, as it may be argued that defendants are victims of racist or hate-generating environments. Also, returning to varying definitions of hate crime, certain populations such as the homeless and the elderly represent this failure of identification. In plain terms, these are marginalized and frequently victimized groups who lack the advocacy and lobbying power attached to racial minorities and LGBT people (Chakraborti, 2015, p. 1747). If the reasons behind hate crime policy are understandable, then, they also, and dangerously, ignore the ultimate responsibilities of the criminal justice system and enable too many threats to it.
The above leads me to consider that another course is necessary. There is no refuting that hate prompts a great deal of crime. However, rather than unethically and irresponsibly focusing on that as a motive, community policing indicates a more rational and just means of better countering hate as a motive for crime. In this policing, the barriers between the police and the community are actively weakened. Generally speaking, mistrust has developed between citizens and the law, and this eliminates critical opportunities for all to reduce crime. The communication promoted by community policing alone generates the vital element of greater police awareness of community realities, which in turn encourages combating of the hatred leading to crime. Trust is essential, as its absence increases both crime and hostile interaction between the police and communities.
For example, the controversies surrounding alleged police targeting of black males, and violently dealing with them despite lack of threat posed, underscore the importance of community policing strategies in a negative way. More exactly, study finds that, in predominantly black communities, citizens dramatically decrease calls to the police after such an incident is reported (Desmond, Papachristos, & Kirk, 2016, p. 867). In any such environment, hate is promulgated, just as ethnicity is by no means the only relevant issue in communities. While no single course may effectively reduce hate crime, I firmly believe that that proactive approach of community policing should replace understandable, but misguided, focuses on the criminal’s psychological and emotional motivations.
Without question, hate crimes exist. There can be no denying that many violent crimes are committed because the offenders are motivated by rage at particular groups. At the same time, however, efforts to deal with such criminals based on the motivations are questionable at best because definitions of hate crime are inevitably broad and unclear, other marginalized groups are neglected in the approach, and the focus enables unjust and unethical mitigating possibilities in defense. In my estimation, the far more effective strategy is to promote community policing and the communication it provides in perceiving and addressing any sch issues before they generate criminality. Ultimately, community policing, creating deeer understanding between the law and citizens, should be expanded as much as possible to better address the underlying forces of hate crimes.
- Brax, D., & Munthe, C. (2015). The philosophical aspects of hate crime and hate crime
legislation: Introducing the special section on the philosophy of hate crime. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(10), 1687-1695.
- Chakraborti, N. (2015). Re-thinking hate crime: Fresh challenges for policy and practice. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(10), 1738-1754.
- Desmond, M., Papachristos, A. V., & Kirk, D. S. (2016). Police violence and citizen crime
reporting in the black community. American Sociological Review, 81(5), 857-876.