By Stephen Owsinski:
The account of hate-based incidents among people in the United States is relatively static, and the numbers conveyed in the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics (released November 16, 2016) analyze “bias-motivated crimes” in categorical fashion.
According to the FBI report, statistics pertaining to hate crimes throughout 2015 portray with relative specificity how people treat each other in America. During composition of this article, another law enforcement official, a veteran U.S. Marshal, was shot and killed serving an arrest warrant on a violent felon. The alleged crimes for which the fugitive was wanted included attempted murder of a police officer (several counts), domestic violence, and weapons offenses.
A married father of five children, 53-year-old Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers, served valiantly with the U.S. Marshals Service for 26 years…until the hatred of another caused mayhem and murder. From his mobile home, the fugitive opened-fire with a rifle and, after murdering Agent Carothers, was subsequently killed in an ensuing gun-battle with federal agents.
While editing this article, yet another cop was ambushed while sitting/writing a traffic ticket in his police cruiser, outside San Antonio police headquarters. San Antonio police Detective Benjamin Marconi, a 20-year police veteran, was shot in the head! A male motorist pulled-up behind him, walked up to Marconi’s window, and opened-fire. That wasn’t enough; the assassin reached in and fired one more time before walking away. This gruesomeness transpired in the midst of Sunday’s San Antonio lunch flow.
Since hate crimes against law enforcement officers is only recently being lobbied—and the only state to pass such a bill thus far is Louisiana—that demographic is not included in the statistical data. Nevertheless, more names will be chiseled into slabs of granite, and hatred is the impetus.
Generally defined, a hate crime is any attack on a person or property based on specific identity such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or symbolism (houses of worship).
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Falling under federal domain, the FBI has placed hate crimes as the number-one priority for its civil rights division investigators. Depending on the concentration, the data may seem bleak but, since last year’s report, hate-based incidents have actually declined, albeit slightly. Hate Crime stats are not empirical but do serve as a relative framework to gauge bias tempo. (The FBI claims not all of the nation’s law enforcement entities submitted responses.)
The federal government initiated the Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990, aggregating data and denoting trends in people exhibiting behaviors indicative of hatred resulting in crimes against persons and properties (churches, businesses, government facilities). A glance at comparable changes in hate-based offenses reported in 2013, 2014, and 2015 depict the ebb and flow of bias-based behaviors.
Even though it has been consistent with the highest categorical percentages, “race-bias” has decreased this year compared with the two prior years’ figures: 47.0 percent versus 48.5 and 48.3, retrospectively. However, data indicates bias against race/ethnicity/ancestry is the most prevalent statistic, at 59.9 percent, up from 47.0 in the 2014 report.
“Sex bias” incidents declined with 18.6 this year over 20.3 last year. “Disability bias” against the “mentally-disabled” decreased from 69 offenses in 2014 to only 36 in 2015.
As we endure vast changes among our democratic culture, how folks handle disagreements and pursue personal interests tramples across thresholds and encroaches upon others. Clashes ensue from the seeming inability to embrace views and identities other than one’s own. Lord knows, the recent political cycle stirred emotions. Many Americans exercised maturity, voted, and accepted the outcome. Others have not.
Why are some so callous to the space, rights, and opinions of others? Why are headstrong “do it my way” mentalities dictated to others, followed by physical repercussions for disagreeing or merely not fitting-in the way others think you should? Naturally, when someone embraces the I-am-the-harbinger credo, intent on foisting their sentiments upon others, the happy train invariably derails. Physical aggression becomes the obese cousin of strong-arm tactics, arrogance, and narrow-mindedness. For example, “disability-bias” against the physically disabled doubled from 26 offenses in 2014 to 52 in 2015, a marked devaluation of those who are challenged differently.
Given that there are approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and the FBI calculated its statistics via police reports from only 14,997 of the total sum of police entities, the tally is presumably higher than reported.
In each of the last three years’ statistics, humans are the prevalent target. Of the total number of hate-based offenses in this year’s report, a whopping 82.4 percent were against persons, the remainder involved vandalism/destruction of property.
Unlike race-bias figures, hate-crime against senior and/or disabled citizens is marginal; the seeming barbarism and aggression red-flags despair and myopic views among perpetrators. Accosting elders or those with physical/mental impairments mauls principles of morality. If that does not touch a chord, apathy barged in and requires swift eviction.
Considerations and Manifestations
Each of us has a responsibility to one another. It is the American way. Consider the words neighborhood and community and their inherent meanings. We are The United States. As a mainstay, unity thrives and conjoins divide. We are a great people. We can always improve, and civility is a demonstrably valuable catalyst.
Seed, harvest, and spread dividends. Excite from giving, without expectation. Co-existing to embrace the opinions and offerings of others is a gift to be cherished, not battered. It is a choice accorded our democratic tapestry, woven with a kaleidoscope of cultures.
We are better than the accounting contained in the FBI’s Hate Crime stats. No matter the geographic location, every single person has a responsibility to galvanize fine character traits so that misguided individuality is transcended, and open-mindedness, acceptance, and cohesion are fostered. Derision serves no usable purpose except to underscore a person’s weakness and insecurity. Every human has the ability and responsibility to abate a bad attitude, curb a cynical view, and keep errant egos from running amok.
And the ones robbing anyone’s dignity are actually forfeiting their own by imposing their will (bias) upon another.
After going off-duty from 12-hour shifts as a street cop working midnights, I was thankful to come home one more time. I decompressed from a night of exposure to vile human behavior, simply by watching how the little Nemos in my saltwater tank cocoon in the soft, vibrant tentacles of anemones. I studied their symbiosis: two organisms tacitly bringing something to the table, thriving happily. Clown-fishes bring food to the anemone and, in turn, the anemone provides shelter. Two different species, silently supporting each other and co-existing harmoniously exemplifies community. After many shifts chock-full of human idiosyncrasies and tainted temperament, I found solace in Nemo and ocean flora. Lessons abound.
“Building relationships. One cup at a time.” That is the mantra of the highly-successful Coffee with a Cop initiative which encourages cops and citizens to gather, sip java, and amicably exchange ideas in civil decorum. The principles of Coffee with a Cop exemplify how unscientific it is to join people, engender dialogue, and blend ideas.
Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer.