October 16, 2000

Police Training Focuses on New Law

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Members of the Cornell University Police Department, on October 10, went on a one-day training retreat, where they learned how to apply the New York State Hate Crimes Act of 2000 to their jobs.

The Hate Crimes Act took effect on October 8, 2000 and mandates that the Division of Criminal Justice Services collect and analyze hate crime statistics, as reported and investigated in the State.

Under the Act, a person commits a hate crime when he commits a specified offense, selecting the victim and committing the offense because of “a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person,” according to a memorandum by Katherine N. Lapp, Commissioner of the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The Act includes a list of specified offenses, ranging from petite larceny to second degree murder. If these offenses are committed “as a hate crime,” the sentencing is enhanced, as is the penalty, if the perpetrator is found guilty.

The CUPD chief, captain, lieutenant and sergeants all received training at the staff retreat and the remainder of the 59-member department will undergo the hate crime training shortly. The law is already being enforced, as CUPD patrol officers know enough about the law to use it on the street, according to CUPD Capt. Randall Hausner ’85.

“[The Act] will require that we ask a different question set. In any investigation, you basically try to answer a series of questions, and [the Act] will add to our minds: Is this a hate crime?,” Hausner said. “It is changing our focus a little bit.”

At the staff retreat, the upper levels of the CUPD reviewed the new law, reviewed the list of specified offenses, and discussed how to recognize whether there has been a bias-related offense committed. They also reviewed old cases and discussed how they would be classified now according to the new law, according Hausner.

One of the major features of the Act is the amplification of penalties for hate crimes. For example, a case of second degree Aggravated Harassment, where the suspect calls a victim on the phone and uses derogatory epithets that attack the victim’s gender, can be classified as a hate crime. It fits the criteria of the Act by being on the list of specified offenses and by the motivating factor of the crime being the victim’s gender.

If the perpetrator were caught and found guilty, the misdemeanor classification of Aggravated Harassment will become an E class felony. The crime will then be sentenced as a felony with a fine and prison time over one year, according to Hausner.

“This is a big difference and it will be on [a person’s] record,” Hausner said.

The CUPD already uses the federal Hate and Bias Crime Reporting Act of 1990 to classify hate crimes on campus. This reporting law set up 11 criteria for deciding when a bias crime occurs, which the CUPD will continue to use. In addition, the CUPD will use a state form for reporting hate crimes, Hausner said.

The Act allows the CUPD to report incidents, not just crimes, that are bias-related in reporting statistics to the public, according to Sergeant Kathy Zoner.

“I don’t think it changes the way we act with the public, because we already have our ear tuned to [possible hate-related offenses] in a very accelerated manner,” Zoner said.

Archived article by Eve Steele