The report includes a state-by-state chart on hate crime laws and calls for better federal tracking of a problem that continues to terrorize many communities.
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With the next tragic hate crime being a matter of when, not if, a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice calls for more effective federal policies that properly prioritize the investigation of far-right violence targeting racial, religious and other vulnerable communities and for an alternative restorative justice approach to dealing with the trauma and fear these crimes inflict on victims and their communities.
In “Fighting Far-Right Violence and Hate Crimes: Resetting Federal Law Enforcement Priorities,” authors and Brennan Center Fellows Michael German and Emmanuel Mauleón write that ill-conceived Justice Department and FBI policies result in uneven enforcement, unequal protection of targeted communities and unreliable data that mask the extent of the problem. The government does not keep accurate statistics on far-right violence and hate crimes, despite a congressional mandate to do so.
“As a result,” the report warns, “the Justice Department doesn’t know how many people far-right militants attack each year in the United States, which leaves intelligence analysts and policy makers in the dark about the impact this violence inflicts on our society and how to best address it.”
German is a former undercover FBI agent who specialized in domestic terrorism and is now a leading national expert on counterterrorism policy. He’s the author of Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy, about the FBI’s transformation into a highly secretive domestic intelligence agency, to be published in September by The New Press.
German and Mauleón, both Fellows in Brennan’s Liberty and National Security Program, recommend that the FBI should conduct an initial evaluation of any hate crime involving deadly violence to determine how such a case should be prosecuted, rather than arbitrarily deferring to state and local law enforcement agencies as it does currently. These agencies often have few resources, or adequate laws, to investigate and prosecute the cases.
“Fighting Far Right Violence” includes a comprehensive state-by-state chart that shows six states do not even have hate crime laws while others differ significantly in how they treat such crimes. The report expands on the findings of “Wrong Priorities on Fighting Terrorism,” another report co-authored by German for the Brennan Center in 2018.
Among the report’s recommendations:
*The Justice Department should collect and publish accurate data regarding far-right violence and hate crimes to effectively tackle it as organized criminal behavior.
*When an act of far-right violence occurs, instead of making arbitrary case-by-case distinctions between domestic terrorism and hate crimes that obscure the nature of this violence, the FBI should use the statutory definition of domestic terrorism — violence that is dangerous to human life and intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population — to properly triage these cases.
*Congress should study restorative justice approaches to redress the injuries that far-right terrorism and hate crimes inflict on targeted communities and develop a plan to fund and implement these methods, in consultation with the victims.
For Michael German’s testimony before Congress on white supremacy, please click here.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to reform, revitalize – and when necessary, defend – our country’s systems of democracy and justice.