The Minnesota House of Representatives is moving forward on a bill that makes the reporting of hate crimes easier.
The bill, HF 181, re-examines what qualifies as a “bias crime” - the legal term for hate crimes in the state - and seeks to expand their scope and the ability of people to report those crimes. The bill also requires all such bias crimes to be reported to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
“In our efforts to understand the problem we recognize the need for significant revisions on Minnesota’s outdated hate crimes, or bias crimes as we call them, statutes,” said Brandon Schorsch, program manager for the Jewish Community Action Combating Hate. “Two thirds of criminal hate acts go unreported. Crime data is reported voluntarily, and many jurisdictions never report, or withhold reports on specifically hate and bias crimes to avoid bad press.”
Currently, Minnesota statute states that any person who violates Minnesota law on another person based on sexuality, race, disability or nation of origin is guilty of a bias crime.
If someone wants to report a bias crime, they are directed to the police. Author of the bill, Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL), noted that marginalized communities are not always comfortable reporting to the police, and Schorsch noted that officers may not have the legal training or knowledge to recognize that the crime has a criminal bias element.
“With the provisions of this bill, the state of Minnesota will be better equipped to respond to hate holistically rather solely through criminal law as it largely does today,” Schorsch said.
The bill seeks to update the POST Board training and curriculum standards regarding hate and bias incidents, and instructs them to work with professionals in underserved communities to develop those standards. The bill does not currently have any provisions to further encourage the investigations of reported bias crimes.