At the end of January, local leaders in Bloomington were talking publicly about hate crime reporting.
Their talk took place in at least two places on Jan. 30: during a Facebook broadcast from city hall; and during a city council meeting. A common thread across both discussions was this idea: A state statute already requires law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes—but Bloomington’s police department is one of the few law enforcement agencies across the state that complies with the law.
During the city council’s meeting, Councilmember Jim Sims threw down a challenge of sorts to local media outlets.
[I]t is a state statute and is not being adhered to, it’s not being followed, with the exception of Bloomington Police Department. And there’s many folks who are concerned with that, and I’m involved with other folks and we think the best approach at this point is to have media or the [Herald-Times] and their family to investigate these other law enforcement agencies as to why they are not complying and should be reporting it to the state police.
At first glance, it appears that even Bloomington’s police department has missed a couple of years of required reporting since 2001.
How can journalists verify compliance or non-compliance with bias crime reporting laws?
The current state statute requires twice annual reporting of “bias crime” information to the “central repository for criminal history information,” which is the Indiana State Police. The Indiana State Police (ISP) maintains on its website the data reported pursuant to the statute.
Bloomington PD doesn’t appear among the agencies that reported numbers for 2011 or 2013. And Bloomington PD is also not among those reporting zero bias crime information for those years. Finally, for both years, Bloomington is on the ISP list of agencies that did not report bias crime information.
Asked about the missing data, Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff emailed the Beacon saying, “[I]t appears it’s a State issue. We submitted the data but they somehow didn’t post it. We are going back through our files and will repost but it will take a little time for us to do so.”
Bloomington has for several years also reported its hate crime numbers to the FBI. The two years missing from the ISP data are included in the numbers maintained by the FBI, which go back to 1995. Bloomington bias crime numbers appear in each of the FBI’s 24 years of data, from 1995 to 2017, which is the most recent year available on the FBI website.
Reporting to the FBI is not required by the current Indiana state statute.
But at the start of the year, a trio of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill (HB 1020) that would require reports to the FBI, in addition to the state police.
The bill would also allow judges to consider it as an aggravating circumstance for purposes of sentencing people if they committed a crime in order to harm someone because of the “age, race, religion, ethnicity, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, sexual orientation, status of being a law enforcement officer, status of being a member of the armed services, or ancestry of the select individual or group of individuals.”
The proposed law would also require the law enforcement training board to adopt standards for training of law enforcement officers to identify, respond to and report hate crimes.
Three House Democrats were subsequently added as sponsors of the bill. It’s been referred to the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
In addition to reporting hate crimes to the FBI and to the State Police, Bloomington PD has, since 2016, been posting hate crime incidents to the city’s B-Clear data portal. Records on hate crime incidents are posted quarterly. The Beacon compiled the quarterly reports for the three years worth of incidents into one Excel file.
The Bloomington city website data is more detailed than either the ISP or the FBI stats. Each hate crime incident posted on the city’s website includes the victim’s race and sex as well as the offender’s race and sex.
Some patterns are apparent in the 27 hate crime incidents posted to the city’s website for the three years from 2016 to 2018. Most of the hate crimes reported are committed by white offenders—24 of 27. The other three were of an unknown race. And most hate crimes are committed by men—22 of 27. Two were committed by women; the other three were by offenders of unknown sex.