Thursday, January 28, 2010

Class act

I was a guest speaker last night at Dr. Donnette Noble’s University of Nebraska class, Diversity and Leadership (ALEC 466), at the College of Agriculture on East Campus. I am a frequent guest at a variety of college classes, and I really enjoy talking with students. I was one myself for nearly 10 years, and taught part time at UNL and NWU for another 12, so a pretty good chunk of my life has been spent hanging around campus and jockeying for parking spots.

It was a great class, with engaged students who were willing to participate in a challenging dialog. The primary topic was hate crimes, and I gave them my take on what each of them could do personally to impact the kind of bigotry and hate that rears its ugly head in our community with depressing regularity. A couple of the topics we addressed last night have been here in the Chief’s Corner in the past.

For me, it’s inspiring to see young people tackling subjects that we just don’t talk about much in our culture in a mature, thoughtful manner. One of the reasons I’m an optimist is that I am around students and police recruits enough to realize that the world is going to be in good hands for a good long time to come. Dr. Noble’s class was another class act.


Anonymous said...

Would you classify the recent break in at ALNEAL Food Market at 2412 N Street as a hate crime? Why or why not? Is their any direct actions being taken in Lincoln set up to prevent such hate crimes?

Anonymous said...

I always keep this in mind whenever I read about such an incident in the news, especially one from a university setting. False reporting, whether a robbery that never happened, or any other alleged crime that never happened, should be vigorously prosecuted under any applicable statutes.

Anonymous said...


So what is the proper definition of "Hate Crime"? Is this definition open to interpretation?

Anonymous said...

Nebraska definition of Hate Crime

Not very clear, the semantics could be argued in many ways in a court of law.

Tom Casady said...


There is nothing at this point to suggest that any of these burglaries were motivated by hatred or bias. That could change, if more information is uncovered. Most of our hate crimes in Lincoln are vandalism and assaults, but it is conceivable that any crime-type could meet our definition.


We've had our own experience with such a report, attended by considerable local publicity--but not involving the university community.

The far more common annoyance is a false report made by someone who reports the mysterious stranger robber-kidnapper-burglar-rapist-thief. In my experience, the "description" of the fictitious criminal is almost always a black man--a darned good indication of the racism of the real criminal--the one who made up the false report.

False reports have been an occasional topic on my blog because they are pet peeve. They are more than a diversion of valuable police resources, they also minimize the real experiences of actual crime victims. It is a shame that a police officer investigating something like a robbery or a rape has to be thinking to herself during the investigation, "Is this true, did this really happen?" You try mightily not to telegraph doubt to a victim, but the fact of the matter is that this is one of the things you have to consider during the investigation of many crimes.


Here's the relevant definition from our General Order, Hate Crime Investigation:

"For the purpose of this order, hate crimes are defined as offenses motivated by hatred of, or bias against, a victim based on his or her race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, handicap, or sexual orientation."

State law in Nebraska does not have an explicit definition of hate crimes, in fact, the term never appears in the statutes. Rather, the applicable Nebraska statute enumerates the specific offenses for which a sentence may be enhanced if the crime was committed because of the person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to make more sense to just boost the penalty for all offenses mentioned in 28-111, for all such offenses, regardless of any motivating factors. To do otherwise seems to set up special classes of citizens, with some animals being more equal than others.

Steve said...

Crime is crime. The only reason I can think of, off hand, why the motivation for a crime might matter, is if we were able to remove that motivation once it was discovered. Extra punishment for crimes committed because of a hatred or bias against these particular classes will not likely cause the hatred or bias to disappear. More likely, it will increase the hatred and bias that is already present by treating the people in these groups as special.

I can understand how a person from one of these protected groups might feel if the crime was solely due to their membership in the group, for example, vandalism of one's car for simply being a member of a particular race. For other crimes, such as robbery or burglary, I'd be surprised if there are very many perpetrators who choose their targets due to a hatred or bias they may have, as opposed to the value of the stolen property or risk incurred. That's not to say they don't happen.

However, if I am robbed, vandalized, assaulted, or in any other way victimized, am I any less a victim than someone of color, or in a wheelchair, or with a different sexual orientation? I think not. Even though caucasions may be equally protected by hate laws(as in the case of a black who hates whites being the perpetrator of some crime against them), does it make them feel any better about their loss to know that the criminal's sentence may be "enhanced" because of it? I don't think so.

Oh, I was just robbed of my life savings and I'll never get them back, but the guy who did it didn't hate me, so I'm okay with him only getting five years for it. Man, if he had hated me, I'd want him to do life, at least. Then, I'd feel much better about living in Lancaster Manor when I'm too old to take care of myself.

Anonymous said...

I HATE all criminals regardless of race, religion,sexual preferences, crime committed, or by any other standard. That doesn't make me a bad person does it?


Anonymous said...

January 28, 2010 10:02 PM:
No, it makes you human.

"Hate the sin, Love the sinner"

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve,

There are many things that we, as individuals, can do to enhance our own safety and minimize our risk of becoming a victim. Of course, nothing is a sure bet but as a citizen in Lincoln, we can often go to school, work, social events, etc without fear of harm from strangers.

What is difficult for most folks who do not fall within one of the protected classes to understand is, they often do not have this same experience. This sense of being at ease within the larger community. They are necessarily and rightfully more leary, do not feel safe and the deeply personal impact from having to live with a heightened sense of awareness and fear is extremely destructive.

The fact is that there are many documented instances in Lincoln, where a crime was committed and the person became a target because of the essence of who they are.

To practice safe behaviors and still be attacked or to have your property destroyed, not just because it was a random bad choice but rather, because you have a target on back that you can't take off, is a horrible experience.

It's emotionally, spiritually, psychologically damaging in addition to the harm caused by the crime itself.

Thus, as a community it's important that we rally together and take a stand that does not accept a person being targeted because of who they are. That people shouldn't have to live in fear because we are united in saying this type of hatred and prejudice is wrong. It is unequivocally unacceptable and not only will you be punished for the crime itself, but the penalty will be more severe because of the wicked intention behind it.

If this awareness prevents even one person from "bashing" and we have one less victim as a result, then it's a success.

The reality is, motivation and intention comes into play within the realm of the law and sentencing all the time. From an unintentional manslaughter to a premeditated murder and even to a provoked versus unprovoked dog bite! So this isn't so different.

As you mentioned, you can't control a person's thoughts but you can tell them if they harm another person because of them, especially specific to prejudice, then they will suffer the ramifications. It's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

I take slander very seriously especially when it is directed towards minorities and when it is done by law enforcement. I'm a minority person who has been slandered by either the lincoln police department or some other law enforcement agency. It started in 2008 and has been on going. I have been said to be a child molester. I have never been arrested, convicted or let alone accused of it. I have heard neighbors whisper it. Certain schools have been given this false information as well as daycare centers. I reached my boiling point, as soon as I get the proof who started this lie, civil action for slander is going to take place against law enforcement and individuals.