To the editor:
A recent Journal-World article concerning the reporting of "hate crimes" by police may need clarification.
The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 requires the U.S. attorney general to collect data about crimes involving prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity as part of the National Uniform Crime Reporting program administered by the FBI.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is the central repository for criminal record in Kansas. The KBI collects crime data from 350 law enforcement agencies throughout the state and submits this information to the FBI for the annual "Crime in the U.S." report.
The intent of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act is to give the criminal justice community more accurate information on the extent of hate and bias-related crimes committed in the U.S. The KBI has not taken a position on the merits of the law. But under an agreement with the FBI, approved by Atty. Gen. Robert Stephan, the KBI began collecting this data on Jan. 1. Contrary to the impression given by your article, the Kansas Legislature did not mandate that hate crime statistics be collected by the KBI.
The objective of the hate crime data collection is to indicate whether the criminal offender was motivated to commit the offense because of bias against a racial, religious, ethnic-national origin or sexual orientation group. The mere fact that the offender is biased against one of these groups does not mean a hate crime was involved. The criminal act must have been motivated by the bias itself.
A legitimate question was raised in your article about the intrusiveness of questions by police officers in order to determine motivation. There is no requirement that questions be asked to intrude on a person's privacy, religious beliefs or lifestyle. Police are expected to use good judgment and restraint in ascertaining motivation for hate crimes.
The important point is that the KBI did not "dream up" this new reporting procedure to place an undue burden on police or to infringe upon the privacy of citizens. The KBI is implementing the procedure to be in compliance with federal law.
Robert B. Davenport,