Friday, July 9, 2010

New hate crime law

Tuesday, I was among eight LPD officers who attended a day-long training session on hate crimes sponsored by the United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska, Deborah Gilg. It was a good session, and included an interesting multicultural panel in the afternoon, as well as a thoughtful morning presentation by the retired chief of the Laramie, WY police department, Dave O’Malley.  Mr. O’Malley described the impact of the murder of Matt Shepard

The most practical portion of the training was presented by several lawyers from the Department of Justice, who briefed us on the changes to the Federal law concerning hate crimes as a result of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Act, passed in Congress last fall. 

I was seated next to Capt. Marty Fehringer.  He and I were recalling Lincoln’s own gay-bashing homicide that would have been a prime candidate for Federal prosecution under this law had it existed in 1993, when Lincoln shoe salesman Harold Grover was murdered by Clifford Privat and Troy Leger.  I was marginally involved in the investigation as Lancaster County Sheriff; Marty was personally acquainted with the victim. 

The murder of Mr. Grover, in my mind quite a sensational crime and not really that long ago, seems to be lost in the mist:  I Googled the case and came up empty-handed.   It is certainly the most dastardly hate crime in our City and County during my years of service. 

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's a racially motivated and brutal hate crime I Googled. Few ever seem to mention this one when touting hate crimes enhancements, which is one reason why some observers see hate crime prosecutions as being somewhat "one-way".

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Tuesday evening I was driving by your 27th street station headed South on 27th. One of your female employees had left the parking lot just in front of me (her license plate ends in ---115). At Vine street she was in the left turn lane and I was in the right lane. An older Buick being driven by a 20's something Black Male behind the wheel was in the middle lane. He had his stereo turned up so loud rust was falling off his old beater. The lyrics of his rap music were something along the line of "killing some White a**hole cracker". To me that is an example of a "Hate Crime". Behavior like this idiot exhibited adds fuel to stoke the fires of racism. All the hard work of Black leaders like Martin Luther king etc go right down the toilet when an idiot like this pulls crap like this.

Gun Nut

Grundle King said...

I agree that there is no room in our society for murdering someone based on biases of race, gender, sexuality, etc. ...

But on the other hand, there's no room in our society for murdering someone because they wouldn't hand over their wallet. Or because someone wants to cover their tracks. Or because their spouse found romance outside of the marriage. The list goes on.

This is why I've never been able to figure out the value of the whole 'hate crime' designation. Were one of my loved ones to be murdered, I don't think I'd care why they were killed, I'd want to see the killer hooked up to Ol' Drippy (that's my new official name for the lethal injection chamber now that Ol' Sparky is gone).

And as Anon 7:59 pointed out, it seems like the whole hate crime avenue is a one-way street...as apparently minorities are incapable of hating white folk enough to kill them.

Ben said...

Morning!

2 things... first, I'm not totally sold on the idea of "hate crimes", at least as it pertains to killing. Isn't all murder motivated by some sort of hate? This is coming from an every day citizen, so I'd welcome the perspective of someone from law enforcement who is well more informed on the issue than I.

Second, I'm also concerned about classifying homosexuality as a prejudice and being included in the hate crime laws given that homosexuality is a sin. Might as well include crimes against liars, thieves, etc. Again, I welcome any thoughts from the officers. I don't mean to start a debate on this topic, but I do ask because I'm genuinely curious about different thoughts on the issue, especially since our chief has a religious background!

ed said...

chief, wondering about the new 2am serving law for bars... so if lincoln is waiting the 60 day for a "study" will they really learn all they need in that 60 days or will it just be a reason to postpone it until right before the first football game of the year.... I was wondering your take on this study and the new 2am last call law.... thanks

ed

Anonymous said...

Gun Nut:
Was it a police car or private vehicle?
How is the female important in this story?

Anonymous said...

Why do we need another law ie: hate crime? If someone kills or beats someone, there's laws to deal with it. What difference does it make why?

Anonymous said...

1:53,
When this incident happened I noticed the young Lady (25 to?) in the private vehicle I mentioned seemed to notice the loud music also. I assume she is either the spouse of a LPD employee or an employee herself. Her presence in the area does not change any of the facts in the incident. I included that information hoping she might read this Blog and add her two cents to the discussion.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Sheriff O'Malley- If you read this I wanted to let you know that Friday afternoon I was in Laramie and took a tour provided by my Niece, who is a senior at the University of Wyoming. I was very impressed with the community. What a great little college town and beautiful campus. I also had a few adult beverages at a place called Mulligans. Great spot. I enjoyed my visit.

256

Anonymous said...

This may be belated but I wanted to answer the question posed by other readers. In the example 7:59 offered, it is a horrendous, brutal crime but there is no indication that bias and prejudice was a motivating factor. When a person is assaulted, robbed, etc in a random crime, it's clearly disastrous. We all want to do everything within our power to stop these random acts of violence.

However, when a whole faction of our society knowingly and chronically targets and commits criminal acts upon another segment based solely on the motivation of the victim's real or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, or disability, then we as a whole community need to offer an enhanced response and message saying this is wrong and will not be tolerated.

It takes little conversation with a member of a protected class to hear stories of discrimination ranging from slurs all the way to hostile interactions. Gay men are the statistically the number one most likely victims of random violence based on their perceived or real sexual orientation.

Regardless of your views about a person's sexuality, I think as a community we all agree it's not okay to harm another because of it.

To live always having a heightened sense of awareness, to frequently feel unsafe in various public, social settings, because the group next to you may choose to become adversarial -only- because of how you appear to them, is emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and mentally harmful. Let alone the actual damage done while being a victim.

The rest of us can take some actions to protect ourselves by limiting our exposure to crimes, choosing the safest places to live, not wandering in particular unsafe environments, locking up valuables, etc. Many of us have no worries about ever being assaulted and live our whole lives without that dramatic experience. Generally our population feels "safe".

But we DO have offenses motivated by hate in our city where the victims where attacked solely because of the above characteristics. That's why as a community, we have to take action to do what we can to clearly state that -all- people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect despite your personal opinions about them. That if you strike out based on your perceptions alone about a quality they can not change, then your punishment will be enhanced. It is wrong.

That's the difference.
Cheri Marti

Grundle King said...

Cheri,

I want you to explain to me why any crime is more "disastrous" than another crime, simply because one crime involved discrimination. I'll give you an example, and you explain to me why one is less disastrous.

Victim A is killed during the course of a robbery because Suspect A does not want to get caught and sent to prison.

Victim B is killed during the course of a robbery because Suspect B does not want to get caught and sent back to prison, but also because Suspect B has a particular dislike for the race/religion/ethnicity/sexuality of Victim B.

Both victims are dead, both suspects are murderers. Both murders are heinous, and deserving of punishment to the fullest extent of the law.

Now how does society benefit from a law that says, because Suspect B harbored hatred for Victim B, Suspect A is deserving of a lesser punishment than Suspect B?

If you really want to have fun with the latter scenario, make Victim B a heterosexual-white-Christian male, and make Suspect B anyone who doesn't share those characteristics. How likely would Suspect B be charged with a "hate crime"?

I agree that it's definitely NOT okay to harm someone based on any of the factors generally associated with "hate" crimes...but I think where we disagree is on the idea that, because no racial/sexual/etc. prejudice was involved, that it's maybe just a little bit more okay. Neither one is okay, and neither one is either more or less important to address. While "hate crimes" should be discouraged because of the associated prejudice...non-"hate crimes" should be discouraged because of their much higher prevalence.

This probably bothered me the most...

"That if you strike out based on your perceptions alone about a quality they can not change, then your punishment will be enhanced."

So...what if you strike out based on your perceptions alone about a quality they CAN change? What if a Yankees fan assaults a Red Sox fan based on a long-standing hatred of the Red Sox? And no, I'm not kidding around...why would that not be considered a hate crime?

Bottom line...the whole "hate crime" designation is an arbitrary term given to crimes based on discrimination that has occurred over centuries, even millennium. The tragedy is here and now, and the casket doesn't care what color its occupant is.

Anonymous said...

Does hate crimes cover a certain Mayor's

Anonymous said...

the biggest hate crime is you not doing your job to get rid of illegals!