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Hate Crimes in California
Law Enforcement Has Not Adequately Identified, Reported, or Responded to Hate Crimes

Report Number: 2017-131

May 31, 2018 2017-131

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning the implementation of hate crime law in California. This report concludes that although reported hate crimes have increased by more than 20 percent from 2014 to 2016, law enforcement has not been doing enough to identify, report, and respond to these crimes. State law defines hate crimes as criminal acts committed, in whole or in part, based on certain actual or perceived characteristics of the victim, referred to as protected characteristics.

Of the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed, three—the Los Angeles Police Department (LA Police), the San Francisco State University Police Department (SFSU Police), and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department—failed to properly identify some hate crimes. For example, from 2014 through 2016, LA Police and SFSU Police  failed to correctly identify 11 of the 30 cases we reviewed as hate crimes, even though they met the elements of those crimes. Officers at these law enforcement agencies may have been better equipped to identify hate crimes if their agencies had adequate policies and methods in place to identify hate crimes.

In addition to misidentifying hate crimes, we found underreporting and misreporting of hate crimes among law enforcement agencies. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) requires law enforcement agencies with peace officer powers, such as sheriff’s departments and police departments, to submit information on all hate crimes occurring in their jurisdictions on a monthly basis. DOJ then transmits these data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, we found that law enforcement agencies failed to report some hate crimes to DOJ. We found 97 instances of hate crimes that the agencies failed to report to DOJ, or roughly 14 percent of all hate crimes identified by the four law enforcement agencies we reviewed. Correct reporting to DOJ is essential to raising awareness about the occurrence of bias-motivated offenses nationwide, and to understanding the nature and magnitude of hate crimes in the State.

Finally, we found that while outreach by law enforcement agencies is seen as an important factor in encouraging individuals from vulnerable communities to report hate crimes to the police, over 30 percent of the law enforcement agencies who responded to our survey stated that they do not use any method to encourage the public to report hate crimes. We have made recommendations to the Legislature and DOJ to address the increases in reported hate crimes, including requiring DOJ to create and disseminate outreach materials so law enforcement agencies throughout the State can better engage with their communities.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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