The number two priority in the FBI's Civil Rights Program is the investigation
of hate crimes. The FBI's jurisdiction pertaining to hate crimes is primarily
predicated on five federal statutes:
5) Title 18, U.S.C., Section 844 (h) (Using Explosives or Fire in the Commission of a Felony)
The FBI's role in civil rights investigations dates back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This legislation was passed by Congress after President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress on November 23, 1963, and called for them "to write the next chapter of equal rights and to write it in the book of law." Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government, under the leadership of both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, took the position that protection of civil rights was a local function, not a federal one. However, the murder of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June 1964, provided the impetus for a visible and sustained federal effort to protect and foster civil rights for blacks. MIBURN, as the case was called (it stood for Mississippi Burning), became the largest federal investigation ever conducted in Mississippi. On October 20, 1967, seven men were convicted of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of the slain civil rights workers. All seven were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years.
The most recent available hate crimes statistics compiled by the FBI are for the year 2003. During 2003, 7,489 hate crime incidents were reported to the FBI by 11,909 law enforcement agencies in 49 states and the District of Columbia, representing nearly 241 million inhabitants, or 82.8 of the Nation's population. The 2003 statistics reflected the following:
Number of incidents by Bias Motivation:
· 3,844 were motivated by racial bias
· 1,343 were motivated by religious bias
· 1,239 were motivated by sexual orientation bias
· 1,026 were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias
· 33 were motivated by disability bias
· 4 were motivated by multiple biases
Frequently, hate crime investigations are conducted jointly by the FBI and state/local law enforcement authorities and, thereafter, prosecuted under state statutes such as murder, arson or more recent local ethnic intimidation statutes. Once the state prosecution begins, the FBI monitors the proceedings and reports the final results to DOJ for review. This process ensures that the law is applied equally among the 95 U.S. Judicial Districts.
Hate Crimes Working Groups
In 1998, the FBI co-chaired a sub-committee of the Attorney General's Hate Crimes Working Group that was responsible for developing a national model hate crimes curriculum for state and local law enforcement officers. The FBI has been active in teaching this curriculum to other law enforcement trainers throughout the United States. The majority of the FBI's field offices also participate in local Hate Crime Working Groups. These Working Groups combine community and law enforcement resources to develop strategies to address local hate crime problems.
National Church Arson Task Force
In June 1996, in response to the increase in the number
of reported arsons at houses of worship, especially African-American houses
of worship in the South, the President of the United States formed the
National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF). The NCATF is co-chaired by the
Department of Justice's Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
and the Treasury Department's Under-Secretary for Enforcement. This task
force brought together the resources of the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms; DOJ's Civil Rights Division; United States Attorneys'
Offices; local prosecutors; the Community Relations Service; victim/witness
coordinators; and other federal, state and local law enforcement officials
in order to investigate fire, bombing and attempted bombing incidents
that occur on, at, or near houses of worship property and that occurred
since January 1, 1995. In June 1996, following the formation of the NCATF,
the Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys to form local church
arson task forces within their respective districts, each of which were
to include representatives from the FBI.
It is a crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. "Color of law" simply means that the person doing the act is using power given to him or her by a governmental agency (local, state or federal). Criminal acts under color of law include acts not only done by local, state, or federal officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of their lawful authority. Off-duty conduct may also be covered under color of law, if the perpetrator asserted their official status in some manner. Color of law may include public officials who are not law enforcement officers, for example, judges and prosecutors, as well as, in some circumstances, non governmental employees who are asserting state authority, such as private security guards. While the federal authority to investigate color of law type violations extends to any official acting under "color of law", the vast majority of the allegations are against the law enforcement community. The average number of all federal civil rights cases initiated by the FBI from 1997 -2000 was 3513. Of those cases initiated, about 73% were allegations of color of law violations. Within the color of law allegations, about 82% were allegations of abuse of force with violence (59% of the total number of civil rights cases initiated).
The Supreme Court has had to interpret the United States Constitution to construct law regulating the actions of those in the law enforcement community. Enforcement of these provisions does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive existed.
Page Updated: February 22, 2005