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Barbara E. McKinney
Bloomington Human Rights Commission Director
human.rights@bloomington.in.gov
812-349-3429
 

City of Bloomington Hosts Discussion of Local Efforts to Combat Hate Crime, Boosts Efforts to Pass State Law

Bloomington, Ind. - The City of Bloomington Human Rights Commission (BHRC) has published its latest report of local hate incidents on the City’s website. Describing 10 incidents that took place from January through December 2018, the report is available for the public upon request and online at https://bloomington.in.gov/departments/legal/human-rights, where reports of hate incidents from previous years are also archived.   

The publication of the latest report coincides with significant community collaboration to support the passage of hate crime legislation at the state level. Together with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, the Bloomington Common Council, the City Clerk and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, the City of Bloomington is a signatory to a letter urging the rules and legislative procedure committee of the Indiana legislature to pass strong hate crime legislation.  

During a discussion today at 11:45 a.m. to be streamed live on Facebook, City officials and representatives of various community organizations will discuss the current incidence of hate crime locally and nationally, the collective effort to update state law, the City’s decades-long record of collecting and reporting hate and bias incidents and crimes, and the education and advocacy efforts local organizations have mounted. Along with Mayor John Hamilton and Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff, the discussion will feature three founding members of the coalition Bloomington United, among other community stakeholders. Viewers are encouraged to participate in the discussion by submitting comments and questions at https://www.facebook.com/cityofbloomington/.

“The City is committed to protecting the safety of all of our residents and visitors,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “We have long recorded and reported hate crimes in an effort to identify and tackle this ugly scourge. I join with our fellow leaders and our community’s hard-working advocacy groups to urge the legislature finally to pass a hate crimes bill.  It’s not only the right thing to do, it is an essential building block for our state to thrive.”

The letter to the state legislators supports a law that would “allow judges to increase sentencing when it has been determined that a crime has been motivated by bias against a victim’s characteristics that include, but are not limited to, their race, religion, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, housing status or status as a veteran.” Indiana is one of only five states in the US lacking specific protection against hate or bias crimes. In his State of the State address January 15, Governor Eric Holcomb joined the effort and encouraged the passage of such legislation during the current legislative session.

The Bloomington Police Department (BPD) has for decades actively reported hate incidents and crimes as defined by federal guidelines.  In June 2018, the BPD was one of only around 50 law enforcement agencies in the nation to join the Police Foundation’s initiative to release open data on hate and bias crime.   

In August 1990, the Bloomington Common Council unanimously approved an amendment to the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance which explicitly gave the BHRC the authority to collect data and issue reports on hate incidents in the community.  The BHRC does not itself investigate the incidents, but serves as a referral resource and sounding board for victims, works with community groups to coordinate responses to hate incidents when appropriate, and raises awareness of the prevalence of hate incidents with its annual reports.

The annual reports contain descriptions of verbal harassment, threats of physical harm, actual physical harm and vandalism. The reports also address the apparent motivations behind each incident.  The BHRC alerts prospective readers of the reports that the language they contain has been preserved for accuracy, and is as such often offensive by definition.

The BHRC receives its reports from a variety of sources, including the BPD, news reports and individuals. People who are victims of hate incidents are urged to report the incident to the police by calling 911 or to the BHRC by calling 812-349-3429, e-mailing human.rights@bloomington.in.gov or by submitting a report at https://bloomington.in.gov/departments/legal/human-rights. The BHRC accepts anonymous reports.


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