Some of the Law Enforcement Agencies We Reviewed Did Not Correctly Identify Hate Crimes and Lacked the Tools and Training Necessary to Identify Hate Crimes Appropriately
LA Police, SFSU Police, and the Orange County Sheriff failed to properly identify some hate crimes in the cases we reviewed. The underidentification of hate crimes was due to several factors, including policies that did not accurately reflect state law and a lack of tools that patrol officers could use to identify hate crimes when first arriving at crime scenes. In addition, we found that two of the four agencies we reviewed did not offer adequate hate crime refresher training that would have reminded officers of how to correctly identify hate crimes.
Three of the Law Enforcement Agencies We Reviewed Did Not Adequately Identify Hate Crimes
Three of the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed failed to properly identify some hate crimes. For example, our testing at LA Police and SFSU Police indicated that they failed to appropriately identify some instances of hate crimes, misidentifying them instead as hate incidents.2 As the Introduction discusses, hate incident is a term that law enforcement agencies use to describe a situation that involves an element of hate, such as hate speech, but does not include an underlying crime, such as an assault. As Table 3 shows, LA Police should have identified three of the 15 hate incident cases we reviewed—or 20 percent—as hate crimes. Similarly, SFSU Police should have identified eight of the 15 hate incident cases we reviewed—or 53 percent—as hate crimes.3 In these misidentified cases, an offense such as breach of the peace or assault occurred in addition to an element of hate, thus elevating the cases to hate crimes. For example, LA Police investigated an assault that occurred at a school and improperly reported it as a hate incident. Although LA Police indicated that it did not consider the three incidents in question to be crimes, our review of incidents reported to LA Police clearly indicated that crimes had occurred. Similarly, SFSU Police indicated that several of the eight incidents it misidentified were not hate crimes because the victims or reporting parties did not positively indicate that they were the targets because of their identities, although no such legal requirement exists. As we discuss later, because they misidentified these hate crimes as hate incidents, LA Police and SFSU Police failed to report the crimes, thereby leading DOJ to present incorrect information about the number of hate crimes in California.
Accuracy of Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Identifying Hate Crimes
|Law Enforcement Agency||Underidentification||Overidentification|
|Hate Crimes Misidentified as Hate Incidents||Associated Crime Review*||Cases Identified as Hate Crimes|
2014 through 2016
|3 errors of 15 files reviewed||0 errors of 29 files reviewed||0 errors of 15 files reviewed|
|Orange County Sheriff
2007 through 2016†
|NA||1 error of 29 files reviewed||0 errors of 10 files reviewed|
2007 through 2016†
|8 errors of 15 files reviewed||0 errors of 29 files reviewed||5 errors of 16 files reviewed|
|Stanislaus County Sheriff
2007 through 2016†
|NA||0 errors of 29 files reviewed||0 errors of 17 files reviewed|
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of cases at the LA Police, Orange County Sheriff, SFSU Police, and Stanislaus County Sheriff.
NA = Not applicable.
* We reviewed reports for arrests for crimes frequently associated with hate crimes and determined whether hate crimes had occurred.
† We expanded the period of review from 2014 through 2016 to 2007 through 2016 because of the relatively few hate crime cases referred to the Orange County Sheriff, SFSU Police, and Stanislaus County Sheriff. However, we conducted the associated crime review testing at these three agencies for the period from 2014 through 2016.
We also identified one case in which the Orange County Sheriff failed to identify a hate crime that occurred in its detention facility. State law requires law enforcement agencies to address hate crimes regardless of where they occur. Our testing of 29 Orange County Sheriff case files of crimes often associated with hate crimes, such as vandalism and assault, found one case in which the Orange County Sheriff documented that an assault and battery occurred in its detention facility but failed to identify the event as a hate crime even though the suspect noted that his motivation included a protected characteristic of the victim. When we discussed this incident with the Orange County Sheriff, the sergeant who had reviewed the file stated that she did not realize that the department needed to report the case to DOJ as a hate crime and described the problem as a result of a lack of training.
During our review, we also found instances of overidentification of hate crimes by SFSU Police. Specifically, when we reviewed 16 hate crime cases, we found five that SFSU Police identified as hate crimes but should have classified as hate incidents or non‑hate crimes. According to SFSU Police’s assistant police chief, it reported these instances to DOJ as hate crimes because of outdated policies and an overabundance of caution.
Some Law Enforcement Agencies We Reviewed Lacked the Policies and Tools to Identify Hate Crimes Appropriately
Three of the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed did not have adequate policies and methods in place to identify hate crimes. POST, a commission responsible for setting minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement, encourages law enforcement agencies to have techniques or methods in place to identify and handle hate crimes, such as a supplemental hate crime report form that patrol officers can use to more easily identify hate crimes. A supplemental hate crime report allows patrol officers to identify different elements of a hate crime, such as the type of bias (for example, bias toward race, disability, or sexual orientation) and bias indicators (for example, hate speech, property damage, or symbols).
The Orange County Sheriff does not have a supplemental hate crime report form for first-responding officers but has begun drafting a version of the form based on those used at other law enforcement agencies across the State. In addition, the Stanislaus County Sheriff does not have a supplemental hate crime report form. According to the Orange County District Attorney, information included in these reports, such as victim and suspect statements about what suspects said regarding certain protected characteristics, may be crucial when prosecuting hate crime cases. Until both law enforcement agencies implement methods to better identify hate crimes, the potential to misidentify hate crimes remains high.
Further, SFSU Police’s hate crime policy is outdated and does not correctly describe hate crimes committed as a result of an association with a victim with a protected characteristic. Rather, its hate crime policy incorrectly states that if a crime lacks a specific target or victim, it should be classified as a hate incident. However, state law indicates that officers investigating a hateful criminal act do not necessarily have to identify a clearly specified victim to consider the act a hate crime, as long as the crime was committed based on an association with a victim with a protected characteristic. For instance, statutory and case law make it a crime for someone to spray-paint a racially motivated hate symbol in a college classroom used by an instructor of a different race, under the theory that the classroom is associated with the victim. However, SFSU Police would have considered this a hate incident instead of a hate crime. The SFSU Police deputy chief acknowledged the limitations of its hate crime policy and plans to implement an ongoing training program on hate crime reporting for officers and applicable staff. In addition, SFSU Police have since updated its hate crime policies and procedures. Nevertheless, from 2007 through 2016, SFSU Police misidentified eight hate crimes as hate incidents using a policy that did not follow state law, as we describe previously.
Periodic Hate Crime Refresher Training for Peace Officers Is Not Required by Law, Monitored at the State Level, or Evaluated for Effectiveness
Our review found that some law enforcement agencies have not provided refresher hate crime trainings that contain critical procedures for identifying hate crimes. Specifically, the Stanislaus County Sheriff does not have documentation of any hate crime refresher training from 2014 through 2016, and 85 of the 174 law enforcement agencies across the State that responded to our survey, or 49 percent, stated that they also did not offer refresher hate crime training during this period. Although the other three law enforcement agencies we reviewed provided some hate crime refresher training, it was not always to the majority of sworn officers. For example, Orange County Sheriff indicated that it provided refresher training to only 212 of its 1,950 officers from 2014 through 2016. We find this lack of training particularly problematic given that POST provides free hate crime training materials to POST-certified law enforcement agencies.
Although state law requires hate crime training during police officer academy training, state law does not require officers to take periodic hate crime refresher trainings, as it does with trainings on other topics, such as handling domestic violence complaints. A POST bureau chief noted that mandates for additional hate crime training would be beneficial, subject to the availability of funding. When we asked the Orange County Sheriff why it did not provide more extensive refresher hate crime training, a training division sergeant indicated that the small number of hate crimes reported in its jurisdiction did not warrant departmentwide refresher training, especially given the high costs of implementing new training mandates. A Stanislaus County Sheriff training division lieutenant also indicated that the lack of allocated funding for refresher training is a significant challenge. Nevertheless, by providing periodic refresher hate crime training using POST’s free training materials, law enforcement agencies could help law enforcement officers to properly identify hate crimes.
Moreover, POST is unable to determine the effectiveness of its hate crime training because it does not conduct periodic evaluations of its hate crime training program. Although POST currently conducts annual reviews of POST-certified agencies to ensure that peace officers have met basic training requirements and completed any necessary refresher trainings, it does not conduct reviews of its hate crime trainings. Nonetheless, POST has noted that a program to assess the quality of training delivery could improve law enforcement field performance and decision making. A POST bureau chief stated that POST would like to conduct evaluations of hate crime training at POST academies across the State, but more funding would be necessary. In fact, POST indicated that it requested funding for evaluating hate crime training for fiscal year 2017–18 but did not receive it, and it has also not been able to secure funding for a training assessment program for fiscal year 2018–19. A POST bureau chief stated that a limited program could cost $65,000, while a more robust program would cost $130,000 per year. Until POST obtains the necessary funds to evaluate the effectiveness of its hate crime training, there is no mechanism to ensure that the curriculum most effectively communicates important issues regarding hate crimes, including procedures to ensure that peace officers properly identify these crimes.
Hate Crimes Are Difficult to Prosecute
Due to the difficulty of prosecuting hate crimes, prosecutors are successful in convicting defendants of hate crimes at only about half the rate at which they convict defendants for all felonies in the State. During the period from 2007 through 2016, California prosecutors convicted 790 defendants of hate crimes, as Table 4 shows. For an additional 748 cases that had initially been referred to them as hate crimes, prosecutors ultimately convicted defendants of crimes other than hate crimes, such as assaults. Prosecutors convicted between 40 percent and 51 percent of defendants with hate crime charges during the years we reviewed. In comparison, in the past 10 years, prosecutors secured an 84 percent conviction rate for the 2.4 million completed prosecutions for felonies in California.
The Conviction Rate of Hate Crimes Is Lower Than the Total Felony Conviction Rate
|Year||Hate Crime* Convictions
(hate crime referrals with
hate crime convictions)
(hate crime referrals without
hate crime convictions)
|Years||Total Felony Convictions||Not Convicted||Total||Total
|Prosecution of all felonies|
|2007 through 2016||1,997,513||392,915||2,390,428||84%|
Source: Unaudited DOJ prosecution survey and annual crime report.
* Hate crimes include both stand-alone hate crimes and hate crime sentencing enhancements.
There are multiple explanations for the low rate of hate crime convictions compared to convictions for other crimes. For example, hate crime data from DOJ show that one of the largest limiting factors in hate crime prosecutions is a lack of identifiable suspects. Although law enforcement agencies reported more than 10,400 hate crimes from 2007 through 2016, more than 3,000 of those crimes lacked suspects to prosecute. It is sometimes difficult for police to identify a suspect for some types of hate crimes. For example, seven of the eight vandalism hate crimes at the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed lacked a suspect to prosecute.
In addition, our review of cases at district attorney’s offices found that successfully prosecuting hate crimes is often difficult because the cases lack sufficient evidence to meet the high standard of proof required to prove motive and secure a conviction on a hate crime charge. Specifically, we found that prosecutors reject some hate crime cases referred by law enforcement agencies because they believe the evidence is insufficient to obtain hate crime convictions. As Table 5 shows, of the 51 hate crime referrals prosecutors rejected in the four jurisdictions we reviewed from 2014 through 2016, 37 were rejected due to a lack of sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a hate crime had occurred.4 For example, the Orange County District Attorney rejected one hate crime referral in which a robbery suspect allegedly directed hateful speech to the victim because there was a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that the suspect spoke to the victim. According to the Orange County District Attorney, sufficient evidence needed to prove that hate was a motivating factor could include witness and suspect statements and social media postings. An Orange County senior deputy district attorney stated that because patrol officers, not detectives, generally respond to crimes, patrol officers must understand the nuances of hate crime prosecution to ensure that they corroborate the suspects’ motives for the crimes. This corroboration can establish sufficient evidence for the intent element of a hate crime. A proper initial investigation of a hate crime relies on training and on tools, such as a supplemental hate crime report, which we discussed previously.
District Attorneys’ Offices Rejected Most Hate Crime Referrals Due to Insufficient Evidence
|District attorney’s office Review period|
|From 2014 through 2016||From 2014 through 2016||From 2014 through 2016||From 2007 through 2016*|
|Los Angeles||Orange||San Francisco||Stanislaus||Totals|
|Cases we reviewed
(hate crime referrals)†
|Cases accepted for prosecution by the district attorney||15||16||12||4||49|
|Cases rejected for hate crime prosecution by the district attorney‡||15||15||18||3||51|
||10||14||10||3||37 of 51|
Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of hate crime files obtained from the LA County District Attorney, Orange County District Attorney, San Francisco County District Attorney, and the Stanislaus County District Attorney.
* We expanded the period of review because of the relatively few hate crime cases referred to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
† Hate crimes include both stand-alone hate crimes and hate crime sentencing enhancements.
‡ Includes cases that either were completely rejected or were rejected for hate crime prosecution but prosecuted for non-hate crime offenses.
Even when prosecutors are unable to achieve hate crime convictions, they are often able to attain convictions for the underlying crimes. Specifically, although prosecutors convicted between 40 percent and 51 percent of defendants charged with hate crimes from 2007 through 2016, the conviction rate for the defendants initially referred to prosecutors with hate crime charges increased to between 81 percent and 96 percent when also counting convictions for crimes other than hate crimes, such as assault or battery. Of the hate crime cases we reviewed that were referred by law enforcement agencies and accepted by district attorneys' offices, prosecutors convicted between 57 percent and 92 percent of the defendants of some type of crime, as Table 6 shows. The conviction rates for hate crimes in these cases were lower—between 15 percent and 72 percent—a disparity that occurred for several reasons, according to the prosecutors. An assistant district attorney for the San Francisco County District Attorney stated that because proving that a suspect’s primary motivation for a crime was hate toward the victim’s race or religion is sometimes difficult, it is often only possible to prove that the suspect had perpetrated the underlying crime, such as assault. Further, the assistant district attorney stated that sophisticated juries in the region expect the district attorney to present high-tech evidence, which is often not possible in hate crime trials. The San Francisco County District Attorney prosecuted 13 hate crime defendants but secured convictions for only two, with 10 of the remaining defendants instead convicted only of the underlying crimes.
Conviction Rates of Defendants Charged With Hate Crimes in the Files We Reviewed
|District Attorney’s Office Review Period|
|From 2014 through 2016||From 2014 through 2016||From 2007
|Los Angeles||Orange||San Francisco||Stanislaus|
|Defendants prosecuted for hate crimes†||19||18||13||7|
|Defendants convicted of hate crimes only||6||13||2||3|
|Defendants acquitted or dismissed||3||3||1||3|
|Conviction rate—hate crimes only||32%||72%||15%||43|
|Conviction rate—total convictions||84%||83%||92%||57|
Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of hate crime files obtained from the Los Angeles District Attorney, Orange County District Attorney San Francisco County District Attorney, and Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
* We expanded the period of review because of the relatively few hate crime cases referred to the Stanislaus County District Attorney.
† Hate crimes include both stand-alone hate crimes and hate crime sentencing enhancements.
Being convicted of an offense with a hate crime sentencing enhancement can
result in an addition to the defendant’s overall sentence. According to
state law, hate crime sentencing enhancement convictions can result in
fines or additional sentences of up to four years, depending on whether the
underlying crime is a felony or misdemeanor and on whether the defendant
acted alone or in concert with another person. Conversely, assault with a
firearm, battery, criminal threat, or vandalism without a hate crime
sentencing enhancement could result in a maximum jail term of between six
months and four years.5
Figure 6 shows examples of sentences for stand-alone hate crimes and for
offenses often associated with hate crimes, as well as the potential hate
crime sentencing enhancements available for those associated crimes. For
example, the Orange County District Attorney convicted a defendant of a
stand-alone hate crime when the defendant repeatedly yelled racial slurs at
multiple individuals passing by on the street, a violation of the
pedestrians’ civil rights. This defendant received a sentence of 115 days
in jail for this stand‑alone hate crime. Courts have discretion to
determine which of the sentencing enhancements to impose. For the hate crime convictions we reviewed, the average jail term for all charges, including enhancements, was 8.8 months, and the average state prison term was 4.1 years.
Maximum Conviction Sentences for Common California Hate Crimes
Source: California Penal Code.
* Maximum sentence and Maximum hate crime sentencing enhancement refer to the longest sentence or sentencing enhancement provided by statute assuming no prior convictions, aggravating factors, or other non hate‑related sentencing enhancements. The numbers we provide also assume that a person who commits or attempts to commit a felony that is a hate crime did not do so in concert with another person. If a person who commits or attempts to commit a felony that is a hate crime voluntarily acted in concert with another, then that person could receive a total of four years as a hate crime sentencing enhancement.
† Assault with a firearm means the least serious assault-related fiream charge.
‡ Simple assault means the least serious assault-related charge.
§ Crime did not cause property damage in excess of $950.
ll Crime caused property damage in excess of $950.
Prosecutors we spoke with and law enforcement agencies we surveyed generally indicated that the hate crime law does not require amendment. When we questioned prosecutors about the hate crime conviction rate, they noted that although proving motive beyond a reasonable doubt is a high prosecutorial burden to meet, the difficulty is appropriate given the gravity of the charges. Law enforcement agencies we surveyed overwhelmingly responded that no changes were needed to state hate crime law to allow them to identify, investigate, report, or mitigate hate crimes, with 93 percent of responding agencies indicating that the state law does not require amendment.
Law Enforcement Agencies’ Inadequate Policies and DOJ’s Lack of Oversight Have Resulted in the Underreporting of Hate Crimes in the DOJ’s Hate Crime Database
DOJ requires law enforcement agencies with peace officer powers to report all hate crimes, which it then transmits to the FBI.6 The correct reporting of hate crimes to DOJ and subsequently the FBI is essential to identifying national and statewide hate crime patterns and to combating the negative effects that these types of crimes have on communities. Nonetheless, law enforcement agencies have failed to submit complete and accurate hate crime information to DOJ. Specifically, we found that the four agencies we reviewed, as well as many law enforcement agencies affiliated with educational institutions, have underreported hate crimes. At the local law enforcement agencies we reviewed, a lack of hate crime training and protocols, in addition to little proactive guidance and oversight from DOJ, have contributed to the underreporting of hate crimes.
Law Enforcement Agencies Have Underreported Hate Crimes to DOJ Due to Inadequate Policies
The four law enforcement agencies we reviewed, as well as other agencies throughout the State, have underreported hate crime information to the DOJ’s hate crime database. DOJ requires law enforcement agencies with peace officer powers, such as the California Highway Patrol, sheriff’s departments, police departments, and certain school district and college police departments, to submit information on all hate crimes occurring in their jurisdictions on a monthly basis. DOJ then transmits these data to the FBI and creates an annual report for the Legislature and the public. However, as Table 7 shows, we found that the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed failed to report to DOJ a total of 97 hate crimes, or roughly 14 percent of all hate crimes the agencies identified. LA Police committed the vast majority of the number of errors.
In addition to not reporting hate crimes, the four law enforcement agencies also reported incorrect information to DOJ. Specifically, when we reviewed 65 hate crimes that they reported to DOJ, we found that 13 contained errors, amounting to a 20 percent error rate. These errors often involved the type of bias or the type of hate crime committed. For example, four of the 17 hate crimes we reviewed at Stanislaus County Sheriff and five of the eight we reviewed at Orange County Sheriff had errors.LA Police and SFSU Police stated that the errors we identified were the result of either improper training or a lack of guidance and oversight. For instance, SFSU Police did not adequately document proper hate crime reporting protocol in its policies and procedures manual. The quantity of the reporting errors at the four agencies we reviewed illustrates the extent to which underreporting and misreporting could exist at other agencies throughout the State.
Hate Crimes Not Reported to DOJ by the Four Law Enforcement Agencies We Reviewed
|Law Enforcement Agency||Years Reviewed||Number of Hate Crimes Not Reported to DOJ||Percentage of Total Hate Crimes Not Reported to DOJ|
|LA Police||From 2014 through 2016||89 of 622||14%|
|SFSU Police||From 2007 through 2016*||6 of 17||35|
|Stanislaus County Sheriff||From 2007 through 2016*||1 of 18||6|
|Orange County Sheriff||From 2014 through 2016||1 of 23||4||Totals||97 of 680||14%|
Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of information submitted to DOJ by LA Police, SFSU Police, Stanislaus County Sheriff, and Orange County Sheriff.
* We expanded the period of review because of the relatively few hate crime cases referred to the Stanislaus County District Attorney.
In our review of DOJ’s other hate crime data, we also found that many law enforcement agencies affiliated with educational institutions have not reported hate crimes to DOJ. Like police and sheriff’s departments, certain colleges and school districts have police departments that must report hate crimes that occur in their jurisdictions to DOJ on a monthly basis. We reviewed federally required annual crime reports from 56 postsecondary institutions’ law enforcement agencies, such as the Stanford University Police, and identified a total of 36 hate crimes from 2014 through 2016 that the agencies included in their annual crime reports but did not appear to have reported to DO.7 In fact, of the 56 institutions’ law enforcement agencies we reviewed, 16 appeared to underreport hate crimes to DOJ, while five of these did not report any hate crimes to DOJ at all. When we expanded our review to include police departments at elementary and high school districts, we identified six additional agencies that neither reported hate crimes to DOJ nor confirmed to DOJ that no hate crimes occurred from 2014 through 2016.
Finally, we asked respondents to our survey to report the number of hate crimes that occurred within their jurisdictions from 2012 through 2016. The total number of hate crimes the respondents reported in our survey was about 5 percent higher than the number of hate crimes they reported to DOJ, with more than two-thirds of the respondents reporting a different number of hate crimes to us than they reported to DOJ.8 These discrepancies call into question how well law enforcement agencies are tracking and reporting hate crimes in their jurisdictions. Based on the collective evidence we reviewed, we believe the DOJ hate crime database understates the number of reported hate crimes in California, limiting the value of the information it provides to the FBI and the public. Correct reporting to DOJ is essential to raising awareness about the occurrence of bias-motivated offenses nationwide and to understanding the nature and magnitude of hate crimes in the State.
DOJ’s Lack of Guidance and Oversight Has Contributed to Inaccuracies in Hate Crime Reporting
Although DOJ requires law enforcement agencies to submit hate crime information on a monthly basis, it has made no recent effort to ensure that all law enforcement agencies comply with this requirement. In our view, the first step to ensuring complete reporting of hate crimes in California is to know which agencies must report and to regularly follow up with those agencies that do not do so. However, when we asked DOJ to provide us with a list of agencies that are required to report, we found that it did not maintain a complete or accurate listing of all law enforcement agencies in the State. Specifically, we noted that a number of law enforcement agencies were not present on the list and that much of the contact information in the list was incorrect. For example, we found that over 40 percent of the law enforcement agency addresses were either missing or incorrect. When we questioned DOJ about these issues, it asserted that its outreach efforts were strong in the early 1980s and that it reached what it determined to be close to 100 percent reporting compliance from local law enforcement agencies at that time. Following that period, DOJ relied on newly established agencies to self-identify. The numerous reporting issues we identified and described earlier demonstrate that DOJ’s decision to rely on agencies to self‑identify has not been effective and has led to the underreporting of hate crimes.
Furthermore, DOJ has not widely distributed guidance on hate crime reporting to law enforcement agencies. State law requires DOJ to prepare and distribute to law enforcement agencies the means of reporting data, to instruct them in the reporting of data, and to recommend the form and content of records in order to ensure the correct reporting of data. Although the program manager for the criminal justice statistics center stated DOJ has provided this guidance by distributing instructions on how to complete report forms and other support, 81 percent of surveyed law enforcement agencies indicated that they had not received hate crime related guidance from DOJ. We question whether DOJ could effectively distribute hate crime related materials given its incomplete list of law enforcement agencies that are required to report to DOJ. As we discuss later in this report, DOJ has conducted only a limited amount of outreach to law enforcement agencies related to hate crime reporting.
When we discussed these issues with DOJ, the program manager for the criminal justice statistics center stated that as part of its transition to the National Incident‑Based Reporting System (NIBRS), DOJ plans to update its list of reporting agencies to ensure that all required agencies report hate crime information. The FBI is requiring that all states switch to NIBRS by 2021 to ensure uniformity in reporting and allow for more in-depth data collection. DOJ is still in the strategic planning process for this transition but anticipates developing a mechanism to ensure that all required law enforcement agencies report crime data as part of its transition. Until DOJ begins requiring and verifying data submissions from all applicable law enforcement agencies and conducts audits to ensure the accuracy of the information it collects, many of the reporting issues we identified will likely remain unmitigated.
At least one other state has already established oversight processes designed to remedy reporting issues like the ones we identified. Specifically, Michigan created the Michigan Incident Crime Reporting (MICR) unit to improve the accuracy of hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies. The MICR unit receives all hate crime reports from law enforcement agencies and conducts monthly reviews by contacting the submitting agencies to confirm the validity of all the reported hate crimes. The MICR unit also conducts regular desk reviews of the data that law enforcement agencies submit to it. Michigan reported 399 hate crimes in 2016 and had more reported hate crimes per capita than California, with 4.05 hate crimes per 100,000 people compared to California’s rate of 2.37 per 100,000 people. DOJ currently has no such program, and no requirement for it to develop such a program exists. However, DOJ indicates that it will begin auditing law enforcement agencies as part of its NIBRS transition.
Law Enforcement Agencies and DOJ Could Do More to Respond to Hate Crimes and Encourage Individuals to Report Those That Do Occur
Research suggests that hate crimes are dramatically underreported to law enforcement agencies, and these agencies have indicated that community outreach is an important way to ensure that victims and witnesses report hate crimes. Nonetheless, some California law enforcement agencies have not conducted sufficient outreach to vulnerable communities to encourage witnesses and victims to report hate crimes. Further, DOJ could do more to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to reach out to communities and identify regional hate crime trends.
Law Enforcement Agencies Should Conduct More Hate Crime Outreach in Vulnerable Communities
Law enforcement agencies and community groups we interviewed noted that vulnerable communities likely underreport hate crimes and that outreach could encourage additional reporting. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that about 54 percent of hate crimes were not reported to law enforcement agencies from 2011 through 2015. Although state law requires law enforcement agencies to make a hate crime brochure available to victims and members of the public, it does not require outreach specific to hate crimes. According to DOJ, victims may not report hate crimes due to feelings of shame about being victimized, language barriers, cultural barriers in dealing with the police, fear of having their privacy compromised, fear of retaliation, or—if the victims are undocumented immigrants—fear of deportation. POST recommends that law enforcement agencies hold public meetings about hate crimes and orientations with specific targeted communities, such as Muslims and immigrants. According to a POST bureau chief, this type of outreach can encourage members of vulnerable communities to come forward to law enforcement agencies.
However, two of the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed could not provide documentation of community outreach efforts that specifically addressed hate crimes. Although all four law enforcement agencies we reviewed engaged with the public by discussing general public safety issues, only the Orange County Sheriff and LA Police engaged in community outreach activities that related specifically to hate crime issues. The other agencies noted that agency staff may have addressed hate crimes at various outreach events but that hate crimes were not the primary focus of any particular community forum or outreach effort.
Moreover, over 30 percent of the law enforcement agencies that responded to our survey stated that they had not used any method to inform the public about hate crimes. The community relations manager at the Orange County Sheriff noted that hate crimes are likely underreported in its jurisdiction and that fostering better relationships and communication between law enforcement officers and members of minority communities could alleviate underreporting of hate crimes. Similarly, the public information officer at the Stanislaus County Sheriff noted that it is possible that community members underreport hate crimes to the Stanislaus County Sheriff and that the department could potentially alleviate community underreporting of hate crimes by providing increased community outreach specifically focused on hate crimes. However, the Stanislaus County Sheriff captain stated that it does not provide specific hate crime outreach because it strives for more general outreach efforts meant to establish trust with the community. An SFSU Police lieutenant noted that when the department gives presentations to groups on campus that may be affected by hate crimes, the officers discuss the subject at length but also try to educate students on subjects including personal safety, property security, campus resources, and campus policies. Hate crimes are likely to continue to be underreported until law enforcement agencies effectively engage with vulnerable communities.
Furthermore, several advocacy groups and agencies we interviewed indicated that immigrant communities may underreport hate crimes due to a fear of deportation. State law prohibits law enforcement agencies from detaining hate crime victims and witnesses or from reporting or turning such individuals over to federal immigration authorities based exclusively on actual or suspected immigration violations, as long as such individuals are not charged with or convicted of certain crimes under state law. A POST bureau chief indicated that it is important for law enforcement agencies to conduct outreach to immigrant communities to communicate this law, noting that doing so is key to the successful prosecution of hate crimes. Outreach command staff at the Orange County Sheriff and LA Police and executive leadership at the Orange County Human Relations Commission and Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development have attributed underreporting of hate crimes in immigrant communities to a fear of being reported to federal immigration authorities. Furthermore, a 2013 study found that in Los Angeles County, 44 percent of Latinos surveyed noted that they are less likely to report crimes to law enforcement officers because they are afraid the police will ask them or the people they know about their immigration status.
Although all four law enforcement agencies we reviewed had policies that prohibited inquiring about the immigration status of victims or witnesses, only SFSU Police and Orange County Sheriff conducted any targeted outreach to inform immigrant communities about their policies. For instance, although LA Police officers address immigration or deportation concerns if individuals ask about them at community forums, LA Police do not reach out to minority communities specifically to discuss this policy. Command staff from LA Police’s Community Relationship Division stated that they do not conduct this type of outreach because interest in these forums has recently declined. However, law enforcement agencies could do more to ensure that immigrants feel safe coming forward to report hate crimes by conducting outreach in their communities.
One of the ways law enforcement agencies can conduct hate crime outreach is by partnering with community groups. The US DOJ notes that county human rights or human relations commissions can facilitate and coordinate discussions, training, and events on hate crime issues. For example, the Orange County Sheriff maintains a partnership with the Orange County Human Relations Commission, which provides hate crime training to Orange County Sheriff recruits, offers services to hate crime victims, and conducts hate crime outreach to affected communities. Partnering with community organizations in this manner can be an effective way for law enforcement agencies to conduct hate crime outreach.
DOJ Should Provide More Guidance to Assist Law Enforcement Agencies With the Identification and Investigation of Hate Crimes, as Well as With Outreach to Vulnerable Communities
Because of its statutory responsibilities to collect, analyze, and report data on hate crimes, DOJ is uniquely positioned to provide leadership for law enforcement agencies’ response to the growing number of hate crimes in California. Our survey of law enforcement agencies found that they appear to be receptive to receiving additional training, outreach materials, and other types of assistance from DOJ. However, to use its resources to provide law enforcement agencies with additional guidance, DOJ may need a clear statutory mandate and will need to make revisions to the way it currently collects hate crime data.
With regard to hate crimes, state law currently requires DOJ to do the following:
- Instruct law enforcement agencies on hate crime reporting.
- Collect, analyze, and interpret hate crime data provided by law enforcement agencies.
- Transmit data to the FBI and other federal agencies involved in the collection of national crime statistics.
- Publish an annual report on hate crimes.
- Periodically evaluate hate crime reporting and make recommendations as it deems necessary.
Although DOJ can make improvements in how it meets these responsibilities, as we describe in previous report sections, it has at least developed a framework for carrying out its duties. However, missing from these responsibilities is a requirement that DOJ provide guidance to other law enforcement agencies on how to prevent, identify, and appropriately respond to hate crimes.
According to the supervising deputy attorney general in the civil rights enforcement section, DOJ has participated in about 20 outreach events related to hate crimes over the last 10 years, a portion of which dealt specifically with identifying and reporting hate crimes. However, given the complex nature of hate crime enforcement and identification, which we discuss previously, additional training from DOJ focused more extensively on how law enforcement agencies can better prevent, identify, and respond to hate crimes appears to be warranted. In fact, staff from all four of the agencies we reviewed indicated that additional support from DOJ would be valuable. Further, 83 percent of our survey respondents stated that they would benefit from receiving additional DOJ hate crime training materials, and nearly every law enforcement agency surveyed noted that it would be beneficial for DOJ to send them public outreach materials related to hate crime categories occurring in their jurisdictions. A DOJ supervising deputy attorney general stated that while DOJ will continue to provide existing trainings to law enforcement, it will also work to determine the feasibility of offering more trainings, and whether funding is available.
DOJ could also use its hate crime data to provide targeted outreach and assistance to individual law enforcement agencies that may be experiencing an increase in hate crimes. To do so, DOJ would have to modify how it currently collects hate crime data. Specifically, DOJ’s hate crime reporting process does not capture the geographic location where each hate crime occurred, only the law enforcement agency that reported the hate crime. As a result, if several hate crimes occurred in the same geographic area but a number of law enforcement agencies handled the crimes, neither DOJ nor the law enforcement agencies involved would be aware of the full extent of the problem in that area. By collecting and analyzing hate crimes by location, DOJ could provide data and outreach materials that would help facilitate coordinated responses by the respective agencies. About 90 percent of our survey respondents stated that they would benefit from receiving notices about hate crimes occurring in the geographical areas covered by their sometimes-overlapping jurisdictions.
Further, the limitations of DOJ’s current hate crime data do not allow it to map the frequency and type of hate crimes occurring within a particular law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction. For example, using DOJ’s current data, hate crimes that occur within LA Police’s jurisdiction can be mapped only to the address of its central headquarters. However, LA Police’s database contains more precise data pertaining to the location of hate crimes. We compare the map of hate crimes using DOJ’s limited data to the map using LA Police’s more comprehensive data as shown in Figure 7. Because the map using LA Police’s data shows in better detail how hate crimes affect individual communities within LA Police’s jurisdiction, we believe DOJ should expand this type of mapping statewide. When we asked DOJ about this issue, the program manager for the criminal justice statistics center indicated that as part of DOJ’s NIBRS implementation, DOJ plans to require law enforcement agencies to include location information, such as zip codes, with every hate crime they report. However, DOJ has not yet finalized its plans for implementing NIBRS, as we previously discussed. Until DOJ’s hate crime database includes specific geographic information, law enforcement agencies, the public, DOJ, and the Legislature will not be able to access the data necessary to best prioritize the State’s response to hate crimes.
DOJ Data Lacks Location Detail of Reported Hate Crimes
2014 Through 2016
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s map and survey data, map data from openstreetmap.org, DOJ’s hate crime database, and LA Police’s hate crimes data.
Note: Due to limitations in the location data DOJ collects, we were unable to determine the precise locations where crimes occurred. Consequently, we plotted crimes to the Assembly district based on the address of the law enforcement agency that reported the crime to DOJ—LA Police, in this case. For the LA Police data, we plotted crimes to Assembly districts based on the LA Police division address.
DOJ could also better publicize the assistance it can offer to local authorities when they are investigating and prosecuting certain hate crimes. Since 1999 DOJ has had a Hate Crime Rapid Response Team (response team) that consists of DOJ staff, including the chief deputy attorney general and the director of the bureau of investigation, among others. Once activated by a request for assistance from a local or federal law enforcement agency dealing with certain hate crimes, the response team can help with the identification, arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the perpetrators of hate crimes. In particular, it can assist law enforcement agencies that are combating a series of hate crimes or are not used to investigating this type of case. The team is meant to quickly respond to requests for assistance and then return to their normal duties. However, DOJ has not done enough to inform law enforcement agencies that the response team is available to assist them. Due to a lack of sufficient information about the response team and the circumstances that would trigger it to assist with an investigation, such as a hate crime involving arson or the use of explosives, nearly half of the surveyed law enforcement respondents were unaware of the response team’s existence and capabilities. In fact, according to the director of DOJ’s bureau of investigation, it has never deployed the team.
In May 2018, DOJ reaffirmed its commitment to the response team and issued a press release that provided details about the response team. DOJ does not anticipate needing additional funds since it includes only existing staff. However, DOJ stated that it would require additional funds to provide more assistance to local law enforcement agencies if demand for the team increases. By raising awareness about the existence of the response team and its capabilities, DOJ could provide law enforcement with resources to more effectively respond to hate crimes.
Finally, DOJ could enact programs that would improve California’s ability to prevent the occurrence of hate crimes. The US DOJ highlighted one such program, Maine’s Civil Rights Team Project (Civil Rights Project), which addresses hate crime prevention through a school-based program aimed at educating communities about the negative consequences of bias, prejudice, harassment, and violence. Administered through the Office of the Maine Attorney General, the Civil Rights Project helps to prevent hate crimes by engaging young people and communities in identifying and addressing issues of bias before those issues escalate to hate crimes. Students of all age levels at more than 150 of Maine’s 600 public and private schools have participated in the Civil Rights Project. It engages with targeted populations to show concern for their safety, creates a structure for student response to public incidents of bias in the schools or communities, and improves communication and relationships between communities and law enforcement agencies.
Although DOJ has no such programs, its head of law enforcement stated that such a program might be a good idea and DOJ could have a role in providing guidelines for the curriculum. US DOJ provided funding for the pilot schools participating in Maine’s program. However, according to Maine’s Civil Rights Project director, programs like the Civil Rights Project do not require major funding, other than the costs for temporary substitutes for participating teachers and busing for participants, if there are dedicated members of the school and community who are willing to take part. Such a program could reduce the occurrence of bias-motivated incidents and hate crimes by teaching young people and their communities that actions directed at individuals or groups because of bias against protected characteristics has detrimental impacts.
To address the increase in hate crimes reported in California, the Legislature should require DOJ to do the following:
- Add region-specific data fields to the hate crime database, including items such as the zip code in which the reported hate crimes took place as well as other fields that DOJ determines will support its outreach efforts.
- Analyze reported hate crimes in various regions in the State and send advisory notices to law enforcement agencies when it detects hate crimes happening across multiple jurisdictions.
- Create and disseminate outreach materials so law enforcement agencies can better engage with their communities.
- Create and make available training materials for law enforcement agencies on how best to identify and respond to hate crimes.
- Implement a school-based program, in conjunction with representation from local law enforcement agencies, aimed at educating communities to identify and confront issues of bias, prejudice, and harassment.
To ensure that hate crime training for law enforcement is effective, the Legislature should require POST to evaluate its hate crime training.
To ensure that it receives complete and accurate data, DOJ should, by May 2019, develop and maintain a list of law enforcement agencies that it updates annually, obtain hate crime data from all law enforcement agencies, distribute additional guidance to those agencies on procedures for reporting hate crimes, and conduct periodic reviews of law enforcement agencies to ensure that the data they report are accurate. It should also seek the resources to implement these efforts, if necessary.
To ensure that all state law enforcement agencies are aware of the support available to help them investigate hate crimes, DOJ should engage in outreach efforts to increase awareness of its response team.
To increase the effectiveness of hate crime prevention and response efforts, DOJ should provide additional guidance to law enforcement agencies by doing the following:
- Add region-specific data fields to the hate crime database, including items such as the zip code in which reported hate crimes took place and other fields that DOJ determines will support its outreach efforts.
- Analyze reported hate crimes in various regions in the State and send advisory notices when it detects hate crimes happening across multiple jurisdictions. It should also seek the resources to implement these efforts, if necessary.
- Create and disseminate outreach materials so law enforcement agencies can better engage with their communities.
- Create and make available training materials for law enforcement agencies on how best to identify and respond to hate crimes.
To ensure that law enforcement agencies effectively engage with communities regarding hate crimes, DOJ should provide guidance and best practices for law enforcement agencies to follow when conducting hate crime outreach to vulnerable communities within their jurisdictions, such as collaborating with a county human rights commission. It should make the outreach materials available to law enforcement agencies and should include in them presentation materials for various types of communities, including immigrants and Muslims, among others. It should seek the resources to implement these efforts, if necessary.
Law Enforcement Agencies
To ensure that they accurately identify and report hate crimes, SFSU Police and LA Police should update their hate crime policies and procedures, and the Orange County Sheriff and Stanislaus County Sheriff should implement supplemental hate crime reports and require officers to use them.
To ensure accurate and complete reporting, LA Police and SFSU Police should provide sufficient guidance and oversight to their officers and staff so that they report all hate crimes to DOJ.
To help ensure that officers can identify and document that hate crimes have occurred, POST should send training materials to all POST-certified law enforcement agencies in the State for these agencies to use in refresher training for their officers.
To ensure its hate crime training effectively communicates information essential to properly identifying and addressing hate crimes, POST should evaluate its hate crime courses periodically. It should also seek resources to implement these efforts, if necessary.
We conducted this audit under the authority vested in the California State Auditor by Section 8543 et seq. of the California Government Code and according to generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives specified in the Scope and Methodology section of the report. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA
Date: May 31, 2018
Staff: Kathleen Klein Fullerton, MPA, Audit Principal
Aaron E. Fellner, MPP
Katrina Beedy, MPPA
Jarvis Curry, JD, MBA
Nick B. Phelps, JD
IT Audits: Ryan P. Coe, MBA, CISA
Legal Counsel: Heather Kendrick, Sr. Staff Counsel
For questions regarding the contents of this report, please contact
Margarita Fernández, Chief of Public Affairs, at 916.445.0255.
2 We could not complete similar testing at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Orange County Sheriff because the agencies did not track hate incidents as a category.
3 Because of the relatively few hate incident cases at SFSU Police, we expanded our testing time frame from 2007 through 2016.
4 We expanded the period of review to 2007 through 2016 for the Stanislaus County District Attorney because of the relatively few hate crime case referrals it received.
5 Assault with a firearm means the least serious assault-related firearm charge.
6 A peace officer is a person such as a sheriff, police, or marshal that has certain powers proscribed in state law, including the power to detain or arrest a suspect, conduct searches for weapons, and execute warrants.
7 The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires postsecondary institutions that participate in certain federal financial aid programs to publish annual security reports that disclose specific statistics on certain crimes—including hate crimes—that are committed on or near campus facilities.
8 The appendix includes law enforcement agencies’ responses to selected questions from our survey.