Law Enforcement Response to Hate | Not in Our Town

Standing Against Hate

This Action Kit provides resources and advice to help law enforcement respond to, accurately report, and prevent hate crimes and bias incidents.

1 | Report Hate

In 2016, 13,478 law enforcement agencies (88% of agencies participating) either did not report or reported zero hate crimes to the FBI.

Reporting a Hate Crime

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards recalls the attack on August 5, 2012 at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

The message of a hate crime is that “people like you” are not welcome or safe here. Physical assaults, acts of vandalism, and threats of violence can send shockwaves of fear and uncertainty through targeted communities. When law enforcement commits to accurately reporting and consistently responding to hate crimes and bias incidents, it can: demonstrate support for victims and all members of the community; increase public safety; and help prevent future hate crimes.

Hate crimes targeted at people based on their perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and/or disability are a widespread problem in communities across the United States – but an acute discrepancy exists between the number of actual hate crimes committed, and the number officially reported to the FBI.

This Hate Crimes Reporting Gap presents formidable challenges for law enforcement, including:

  • Hate and bias crimes can escalate if not identified, addressed, and tracked;
  • Without accurate data, cities cannot allocate appropriate resources to address tensions and violence in communities; and
  • Inadequate response to hate crimes can leave affected communities feeling unheard and unsafe.

Hate Crime: A criminal act motivated by hate or bias on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle Police Department developed an innovative online resource to share bias/hate crime and incident data with the public.

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The Seattle Police Department’s Bias/Hate Crime Data


The Seattle Police Department provides bias/hate crime and incident data to the public as part of the agency’s online crime dashboard. SPD’s Bias Crimes coordinator tracks this statistical data as part of her full-time role in the Bias Crimes Unit, which is located within the Violent Crimes section.

Visit Seattle PD's Bias/Hate Crime Data site

Within law enforcement agencies, some of the factors related to underreporting are:

  1. UCR reporting to the federal government is voluntary.
  2. Public officials may fear increased numbers reflect poorly on the community.
  3. Officers and prosecutors may need training to identify, investigate, and accurately report hate crimes and bias incidents.

To overcome these obstacles, law enforcement agencies should:

  • Establish a culture, from top leadership to rank-and-file, that prioritizes clear, decisive response to hate crimes.
  • Invest in quality training for new recruits and ongoing training for all department officers.
  • Communicate to officers, investigators, and the public that increased reporting can not only bring justice to victims and communities, but it can also strengthen community trust in law enforcement.
A Model Hate Crime Protocol

The Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee of the San Diego (California) Hate Crimes Community Working Group developed a Hate Crimes Procedure Manual.

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San Diego County Regional Hate Crimes Procedure Manual


The Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee of the San Diego (California) Hate Crimes Community Working Group collaborated with experts from the state of California and incorporated materials from the US DOJ’s hate crimes training manuals and training curricula created by the California Peace Officers Standards and Training Hate Crimes Committees to develop a Hate Crimes Procedure Manual. The manual serves as a useful guide for agencies looking to develop or enhance policies and procedures for preventing and responding to hate crimes.

The manual features:

  • Examples of hate crimes and hate incidents
  • Suggested hate crime prevention activities
  • Recommended reporting procedures
  • Advice for supporting hate crime victims
  • Best practices for first responders interviewing victims, witnesses, and suspects
  • Guidance for evidence collection among other important information

To explore the manual, click here.

Another area of concern is that most hate crimes are never reported to law enforcement in the first place.

Common reasons for this include:

  1. Communities targeted for hate may not feel safe or comfortable reporting hate crimes to law enforcement.
  2. Long-standing distrust among some communities leads victims to believe law enforcement will be unwilling or unable to help.
  3. Immigrant communities may fear deportation or other consequences if they step forward.
  4. Victims who speak different languages or have disabilities may not report due to cumbersome, inaccessible hate crime reporting procedures.
  5. Individuals and targeted communities may fear retaliation if they report incidents.

To build trust and help people feel safe reporting hate crimes and bias incidents, agencies should:

  • Communicate to the public that you take hate crimes and bias incidents seriously. 
  • Demonstrate a consistent commitment to protecting all members of the community.
  • Conduct outreach outside of crisis situations to develop positive relationships with diverse populations, and create partnerships with organizations that represent communities targeted for hate. Community outreach dialogues should address questions like, “In addition to making a 911 emergency call, who is the point of contact in this community to alert if there is a hate crime or bias incident?” and, “Who is the point of contact if a member of the community has a question about local law enforcement’s hate crime reporting practices, response, or prevention activities?”
  • Create accessible and multilingual reporting procedures, and accept reports of bias incidents as well as hate crimes. Easy, transparent reporting procedures encourage victims and other residents to reach out after an incident.
  • Conduct a public affairs campaign to publicize a telephone hotline and online information about reporting.
Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual

The FBI developed this manual to help law enforcement agencies report incidents of hate crime to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. The resource addresses policy, how to identify a hate crime, and guidelines for collecting and submitting hate crime data, among other topics.

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Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual

Version 2.0

Dated: 2/27/2015


The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, UCR Program developed this manual in consultation with civil rights organizations to help law enforcement agencies establish updated hate crime training programs. The publication includes excellent sample scenarios that are useful not only for purposes of effective data collection, but also to help understand what hate looks like in different communities.


Sample topics include:

  • Legislative Mandate to Report Hate Crime
  • Definitions for Hate Crime Data Collection
  • Criteria of a Hate Crime
  • Scenarios of Bias Motivation
  • Submitting Hate Crime Data to the FBI UCR Program
  • Working with Transgender Victims/Witnesses
  • Special Considerations when Working with Victims from Arab, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Communities.

Read the manual online here.

The Problem of Hate in Communities

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang at a hate crimes press conference.

The fear and insecurity caused by hate crimes not only hurts targeted individuals, but also can negatively affect entire communities, driving decisions about where to live and work, or how often to participate in the community.

The response of law enforcement to hate incidents or hate crimes can strengthen the trust between community and law enforcement that is essential to public safety. Because of the unique ways in which hate crimes impact entire communities, if law enforcement does not respond effectively to hate incidents and hate crimes, it can significantly undermine trust.

Victims of Hate Crimes Need Support

One of the distinguishing features of hate crimes is that perpetrators target a victim because of their actual or perceived identity. Researchers have analyzed how hate crimes “hurt more” than non-bias motivated crimes, in part because bias-motivated crimes can inflict physical, mental, and emotional harm, and can affect behavior of victims. (Citation: Pezzella.) FBI 2016 hate crime statistics indicate that hate crimes are most often motivated by race, with religion and sexual orientation being the second and third most common motivations.

Another characteristic of many hate crimes is the extra degree of violence and cruelty not as common in, for instance, economic crimes. Even though a bias-motivated crime does not require extreme violence to cause fear within a vulnerable community, research has shown that attacks motivated by bias tend to be more violent than attacks that arise out of other circumstances. According to the 2017 BJS report, Hate Crime Victimization, 2004 – 2015:

Overall, about 90% of NCVS-reported hate crimes involved violence, and about 29% were serious violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault). During 2011-15, violent crime accounted for a higher percentage of hate (90%) than nonhate (25%) crime victimizations. The majority of hate crimes were simple assaults (62%), followed by aggravated assault (18%), robbery (8%), and theft (7%).

For all of these reasons, law enforcement must be especially attentive to individuals targeted for hate crimes. Law enforcement, victim advocates, and prosecutors should make special efforts to connect with victims of hate crimes and targeted communities, recognizing that fear can permeate throughout communities.


"Victims of bias crimes tend to take twice as long to recover on an emotional level, because it’s a very personal attack upon them -- be it because of their skin color, sexual orientation, or religion. These crimes are message crimes, not just to that one victim. We really have an entire community that’s victimized when one person of a certain group is targeted because of who they are."

— San Diego County, CA Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia

It is Important to Document and Report Bias and to Investigate and Prosecute Hate Crimes

Because hate crimes can devastate entire communities, not only the individuals targeted, when hate crimes occur, it is important that they be recognized for what they are. This is why crimes motivated by bias should always be reported as hate crimes and why prosecution for hate crimes should be pursued wherever possible.

State hate crime laws provide authority to state and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Federal hate crimes laws provide authority to the FBI and federal prosecutors to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

Hate Crime Statutes

Hate crime laws can vary significantly by state.

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Hate Crime Statutes

Hate crime statutes generally fall within two categories, to either:

  • create standalone criminal charges for hate crimes, or
  • create penalty enhancements to existing crimes.

Statutes require the prosecutor to prove that an underlying bias against a person’s race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability motivated the crime.


State Hate Crime Overviews

State hate crime laws vary significantly. The Stop Hate project has created an online resource detailing each state’s laws and relevant statutes.

Go to the state overviews.

From a legal standpoint, bias motivation is the key element of a hate crime. Every criminal statute that addresses hate crimes includes a central element of bias motivation. As a result, law enforcement officers need to look for what the FBI Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual refers to as, “sufficient objective facts to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by bias.” A law enforcement officer should look for and note “bias indicators,” or facts that suggest the possibility of a bias motive.

When this element is written into a criminal statute, it can make the crime more complicated to prove, and for this reason, some prosecutors are reluctant to charge perpetrators with hate crimes. However, a conviction under such statutes typically comes with harsher penalties. Prosecutors should bring hate crime charges where the evidence and the available statutes make this possible. Convictions under these statutes send an important message to targeted communities and to would-be perpetrators that the larger community is stronger than hate.

When law enforcement and public officials recognize an act of hate for what it is, they acknowledge and validate the experience of the victim and affirm the status of the victim as a full member of the community.

(adapted from A Prosecutor’s Stand: Important Facts for Law Enforcement Officers Leading Discussion of the Film, available online from the COPS Office.)

Community Stories: Why Confront Hate?

What leaders say and do can make all the difference in building resilience in the face of hate. These local examples demonstrate how law enforcement officials can help lead meaningful changes in their communities.

A Hate Crime Detective's Message to High School Students

1) Location: Monmouth County, NJ

Bias crimes investigator Detective David D'Amico regularly visits schools to talk frankly and powerfully to the group responsible for the majority of these crimes—young people. His presentation includes cautionary advice not only about how derogatory words used online are hurtful, but how they can also make the user a target for recruitment by hate groups.

A Not In Our Town Interview with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón

2) Location: San Francisco County, CA

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, in an interview with Not In Our Town Executive Producer Patrice O'Neill, discusses the importance of reporting, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

Spanish Lessons for Police Cadets

3) Location: Patchogue, NY

Realizing that violent crimes were going unreported by the local immigrant community, Suffolk County Police Department Community Liaison Officer Lola Quesada pioneered an innovative Spanish language training program for new recruits to encourage communication and cultural understanding.

Recognizing a Hate Crime

4) Location: Elk Grove, CA

When two elderly Sikh men are gunned down during their evening walk, community members, civic leaders and local law enforcement stand together against hate and intolerance. Elk Grove, CA Police Chief Robert Lehner talks about the importance of recognizing a hate crime in the absence of clear evidence.

of victims

who didn’t report the hate crime thought police could not or would not help, or would create problems for them.

Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2011–2015


“If a police chief doesn't take a visible and active role, then there is an assumption that everything is alright. And these hate groups have learned through experience that if a community doesn't respond, then the community accepts. Silence is acceptance to them.”

– Former Billings, MT Police Chief Wayne Inman

2 | Leadership

Five Things Law Enforcement Can Do

The Camden County (New Jersey) Police Department practices community policing strategies to build trust with their community.

San Francisco, CA, Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang helped double the city’s prosecutions of hate crimes and raise their conviction rate. The reticence of juries and judges to convict on hate charges didn’t discourage him from continuing to pursue hard-to-win cases; his previous experience representing victims of hate had revealed the trauma inflicted on victims when charges are not brought, and hate is not recognized – as well as how victims and their communities might be led toward healing when hate is named, victims are supported, and law enforcement vigorously investigates and prosecutes these crimes. Hwang emphasized the critical interplay between hate crimes victims, law enforcement, and the greater community.

(Victor Hwang has since been elected a San Francisco County Superior Court judge.)


The following recommendations can help law enforcement agencies deepen and expand their relationships with communities and enhance support for victims:

1. Be Proactive in Community Outreach

Affirmative outreach to communities not used to working with the police will build trust so that affected residents feel confident that law enforcement will take their reports seriously and will appropriately respond if they report a hate crime. Partnering with community organizations to host these discussions can make community members feel more comfortable engaging with law enforcement in the first instance. Ensure all residents understand the characteristics of a hate crime and the importance of documenting and reporting incidents.

  • Establish relationships with communities likely to experience hate. Recent statistics indicate that hate crimes are most often motivated by race, followed by religion and sexual orientation. Conduct outreach to build trust with these diverse groups; again, engage with community organizations that have earned the trust of the communities they serve and can act as a bridge to their members.

  • Appoint liaisons to immigrant, LGBTQ, and other communities targeted for hate. Partner with community members and organizations to build trust and bridge any language divides.
  • Engage youth. Promote appreciation for the diversity in the community, and make it clear that bullying, racial slurs, and vandalism are hate-fueled incidents with consequences. Implement diversion strategies or restorative justice models that help keep young people engaged in their communities and minimize arrests for low-level offenses. Support school programs that encourage students to report hate, bias and all crimes and participate in crime prevention groups.

Example 1: Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia has a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Unit comprised of a team of dedicated officers. The unit’s primary objectives are working to build trust and investigating hate crime and violent crime within the LGBT community. Officers conduct patrol functions, respond to all complaints, and implement public education campaigns about public safety and hate crimes. Learn more here.

Example 2: In New Jersey, the state attorney general authorized two diversionary programs for juveniles. Through curbside warnings and stationhouse adjustments, law enforcement agencies have the opportunity to resolve issues and divert youth in their communities away from the juvenile justice system for low-level offenses. Learn more here. The Petaluma (CA) Police Department collaborated with local non-profits to launch a new restorative justice program for youth. Learn more here.

2. Establish a Specialized Hate Crimes Unit

Designate at least one representative to work hand-in-hand with the District Attorney and the public to spot trends, serve as a friendly point of contact, and conduct outreach. Identify opportunities to intervene to slow the build-up of a hostile environment and to let victims know they are supported.

Example: The Phoenix, AZ Police Department Bias Crime/U-visa Detail investigates all bias-related incidents, conducts outreach to build trust with different communities, and offers presentations about bias crime and U-visa certification. Learn more here.

3. Form a Law Enforcement-Community Coalition

Establishing a law enforcement-community coalition helps ensure that the entire community is responsible for public safety and crime prevention. Community members can alert police to potential threats before they result in serious crimes, and agencies can share updates on ongoing hate crimes prosecutions (what is appropriate to share publicly).

Example: Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT) first launched in Detroit, MI 20 years ago in response to complaints that the city’s law enforcement officers were harassing and profiling residents. Additional ALPACT chapters have since been established in Saginaw, Flint, Benton Harbor, and Grand Rapids. Learn more here.

4. Create a Local or Regional Hate Crimes Task Force

Hate crimes task forces create opportunities for community members, law enforcement, and local government leaders to meet on a regular basis outside of a crisis situation. Some are facilitated by local human relations commissions, non-profit organizations, or other community-based groups. They provide members an opportunity to share concerns about hate incidents and crimes in the community, so law enforcement and community can build relationships that improve hate crimes reporting and response. Many hate groups operate across borders and in and out of prisons. A regional task force that includes local and federal law enforcement, parole, and community groups can more effectively monitor their activities, including lawful ones, to help identify potential threats and allocate resources. Task forces can also put a human face on law enforcement, provide assistance to victims, and improve communication between law enforcement and the community.

Example: Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes is a statewide coalition comprised of more than 70 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, civil rights organizations, community-based groups, educators and anti-violence advocates. Learn more here.  Read MAAHC’s guide for creating and maintaining community-based collaborations to address hate and bias online here.

5. Work closely with Victim Witness Units

Law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim advocates should prioritize reaching out to hate crime victims. Even in cases where no perpetrator is identified, make referrals to victim witness units and to community groups to make sure the victim’s needs are addressed. Having accessible, effective victim services will help others feel safe to come forward and report a crime.

Example: San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has a Hate Crimes Unit and a Victim Services Division. Learn more here.

A Model for Law Enforcement-Community Collaboration

In Philadelphia, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies participate in a hate crimes rapid response and community outreach team.

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A Model for Law Enforcement-Community Collaboration


Philadelphia Civil Rights Rapid Response Team

In early 2016, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations worked with existing partners to collectively launch a hate crimes rapid-response and community outreach effort called the Philadelphia Civil Rights Rapid Response Team. Led by the director of the Commission’s Community Relations Division, Randy Duque, this new team evolved out of an existing interfaith group that responded to acts of hate. The extensive network is comprised of:

Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including:

  • Philadelphia Police Department
  • City of Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Easter District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service
  • and the FBI


Key community leaders and city agencies who can quickly, effectively connect with the groups they represent, such as:

  • The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia
  • City of Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • City of Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs
  • The School District of Philadelphia
  • City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services
  • and various community-based victim/witness services groups

The Rapid Response Team does not hold regular meetings, but when they gather, Philadelphia Police Department sends the Chief Inspector of the Detective Bureau, the Commander of the Homicide Unit, or sometimes the Deputy Commissioner to participate.


Rapid Response

When hate or bias incidents occur in Philadelphia, the Rapid Response Team works quickly to determine what additional actions need to be taken while law enforcement initiate their investigation. A violent incident will prompt a conference call, while a more contained incident, like racist or anti-Semitic graffiti painted around a neighborhood, is usually addressed via email. Activities include:

  • Distributing available facts to all team members
  • Establishing whether a community response is ready, or requires assistance to organize
  • Evaluating the need to provide victims and/or other community members additional support
  • Sharing accurate, ongoing details with the community and quelling rumors
  • Encouraging community members to report related information to the police or to a participating organization; this includes sometimes serving as a buffer between law enforcement and the community
  • Ensuring the mayor’s office has accurate information to disseminate

The Commission on Human Relations also frequently receives reports of bias incidents and hate crimes directly from residents, then liaises with the police and the Rapid Response Team.


Community Outreach / Education

The second priority of the Rapid Response Team is to proactively conduct outreach to educate residents. Duque and community representatives meet directly with different immigrant and refugee groups to answer questions and address critical topics like:

  • How to report a hate incident, including a hotline established by the District Attorney
  • Resources residents can access at city agencies and community-based organizations
  • Philadelphia’s stance as a 4th Amendment City, which ensures individuals are protected and safe to contact law enforcement to report crimes, without fear of warrantless detention.

For more information, please contact the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations at 215-686-4670 or

Commit to Robust Training

Detective Ellen Vest from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department conducts a training on how to identify hate signs of hate.

A broad, ongoing training curriculum can ensure officers are knowledgeable and prepared to respond to hate crimes and carry out preventive strategies. It is important to research trainers in advance, to confirm they emphasize cultural competency and don’t perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation. Consider including recognized community organizations representing people from targeted communities in the trainings.

Recognizing the Challenge

A 2017 review by the nonprofit ProPublica found that hate crimes training is not generally prioritized in law enforcement agencies across the country. Among their key findings were:

  • Only 12 states have statutes requiring that academies provide instruction on hate crimes.
  • In at least seven states (Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Missouri, South Dakota, and Texas) recruits aren't required to learn about hate crimes at all, according to law enforcement officials.
  • State leaders displayed a lack of knowledge about their own hate crimes laws.
  • In some states where hate crimes training is mandatory, the training is often combined with cultural competency programs. A review of materials used in such trainings found many of them to be out of date and sometimes biased and inflammatory. Though hate crimes and bias incidents can be dramatic, they represent a very small percentage of overall crime incidents, so agencies designate their limited resources for other training subjects. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers’ "Train-the-Trainer" hate crimes training program was discontinued.


"When I told police officers who were interviewing me that night, it felt like they were more focused on my phone being stolen; they never really got that it was a hate crime originally. It took me saying that it was, and really talking about it, to have people see that it was a hate crime. It’s important for us to call this what it is: hate."

—Transgender activist Mia Satya, who was brutally attacked near a public transit station in San Francisco.

Making Sure Your Agency is Prepared

These important topics should be addressed in new recruit programs and ongoing trainings:

Hate Crimes: what constitutes a hate crime; officers’ reporting responsibilities; updates on the provisions of the state’s hate crime statute and federal statutes, i.e. what victim classes are covered.

Investigating Hate Crimes: techniques to investigate incidents and suspects thoroughly and document everything, so prosecutors are empowered to decide if a hate crime enhancer should be attached to a charge.

Reporting Procedures: proper reporting protocols; making procedures transparent and accessible to people and communities who may be targets of hate; reducing risks that patterns of hate and bias attacks might be missed.

Burden of Proof: different burdens of proof, standards, and pressures for police officers and prosecutors: frontline investigators need to look for and gather the right information and evidence and show empathy and respect for victims, while prosecutors need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – and possibly bias motivation for a hate crime charge; promoting cooperation between agencies and prosecutors.

Protocols When Hate Groups Come to Town: advance planning to ensure safety of all residents and minimize the risk of violent clashes; clear public communications; transparency for agency operations.

Cultural Competency: increase understanding of different cultural groups in the community – as a general rule and especially as demographics shift and become more diverse; strategies for establishing relationships with diverse populations; personal bias within departments.

Language: rudimentary language skills to communicate with diverse local communities and calm fears during interactions; agency procedures for engaging interpreters from the community; required for new recruit classes, as well as ongoing training programs.

Supporting Victims: understanding the distinct trauma experienced by hate crime victims; liaising effectively with victims to show support and refer them to victim witness units and community groups for additional services, so they can begin to heal – and potentially participate in a trial.

Select Training Resources

Enhance your agency's training protocols. 

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Select Training Resources


These training resources can help ensure officers are knowledgeable and prepared to respond to hate crimes and carry out preventive strategies:


A Model Training Collaboration


In Illinois, an Assistant State's Attorney and a Chicago police officer presented joint hate crime trainings for prosecutors and law enforcement officers throughout the state. They successfully shifted officers' mentality from “soldier” to “empathetic educator” and laid the groundwork for community partnerships engaging youth and diverse populations. Read the article on the NIOT website.


Prioritize Community Engagement

Hate crimes are not just a criminal justice problem, they are a community issue. All residents, including civic leaders, educators, faith leaders, labor groups, media, and people of every age, can participate – and law enforcement can play a vital role in educating and guiding the community forward.

A police officer spends time with community members in Arlington, Texas.

Make a plan to promote a safe, inclusive community:

  • Implement community policing strategies that emphasize partnerships and consistent, comprehensive outreach;
  • Convene with residents and community leaders on a regular basis;
  • Create or participate in a public affairs campaign that reinforces the community’s values of diversity and inclusion.

Cast a wide net when seeking community partnerships, including:

  • Civic leaders – the local mayor, city council members, and other city officials
  • Community resources – human relations commission, the public library, social justice and anti-discrimination organizations, and crime prevention groups
  • Diverse community liaisons – organizations and individuals that represent and/or have strong ties with groups that may not feel comfortable working with the police
  • Victim advocates – social services and non-profit organizations
  • Faith groups – individual houses of worship and interfaith projects
  • Universities and Schools – educators, student clubs, counselors, and administrators
  • Business sector – the Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, industry associations, and individual businesses
  • Media – local newspapers, popular community blogs, radio shows and local podcasts, television news or public affairs programs

"A lot of vulnerable victims are not going to come to the Hall of Justice. They’re not gonna’ come to a police station to report crimes. So what we did is we started to put many of our victim advocates out into the community. People will feel comfortable going to a community center or a YMCA."

—San Francisco, CA District Attorney George Gascón

Oak Creek, Wisconsin

After the 2012 hate crime shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards shared the department’s guiding principles for engaging the community. 

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Oak Creek Police Department’s Guiding Principles for Engaging the Community


Oak Creek Police Department

Kanwar Kaleka talks with Police Chief John Edwards and other officers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

The Oak Creek Police Department engaged its community in the aftermath of a fatal shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin that resulted in the death of six Sikh worshipers and the injury of four others—including Lt. Brian Murphy who was first on the scene.

These guiding principles are excerpted from the article, Oak Creek: Leading a Community in the Aftermath of a Tragedy, published in Police Chief Magazine in October 2013. 

Prioritize education and training for officers. The men and women in uniform will be grateful that they have everything they need to effectively respond to incidents and to successfully work with members of the community. A smart, robust training program leaves a powerful legacy for officers many years down the line.

Be proactive about reaching out to and establishing positive working relationships with different cultural groups in the community. By establishing strong working relationships with diverse groups, the department greatly increases its intelligence about what is happening in the community and expands the capability for preventive action. Groups that might be targeted for hate crime attacks should be engaged to discuss potential increased security measures and the importance of reporting any incidents or suspicious behavior immediately.

Maintain a strong, visible leadership role in the aftermath of a hate crime or any public safety crisis. Support may come from regional or national agencies, but it is crucial that the community see local leaders standing together and taking action. Especially after a hate crime, victims and the targeted community need to feel supported, and all residents need to feel confident that the police department is taking a powerful stand against hate and protecting the safety of all residents.

Be transparent and share as much information about an incident as the department can without jeopardizing an investigation. Members of the community want to know what is being done to ensure their safety, and it is important to be up front with them. In addition, the media wants to be the first to report any activity, and rumors or misinformation quickly spread if they do not check their sources. The rise of social media has exacerbated this unproductive cycle.

Maintain a strong relationship with the media; “No comment” does not get you anywhere. When the media calls, from local to international press outlets, provide a comment and let them know how the department is handling a situation. Again, be as transparent as you can without compromising an investigation. This approach pays dividends, because media outlets will come to know that the department is honest and straightforward. In the future, if there is a need to get new information out, or to correct misinformation that has been circulating, you have established partners who can help.

Be approachable—agree to meet with anyone in the community. Especially after an incident, families and/or the targeted community may have tough questions to ask about the event and the department’s actions. Always agree to meet with them and answer their questions. This does not mean you have to meet in front of the media or the greater public; make time for candid, private conversations.

Establish a standard of meaningful community engagement that encourages residents to bring in new ideas. When residents see the department reaching out to groups in the community and proactively addressing problems, they will feel confident that they can approach the police as partners to address other public safety issues. This builds trust between police and the community, and encourages residents to take ownership of crime prevention activities.

Thoroughly investigate and accurately report every incident that might be a hate crime. By taking a strong stand against hate, police instill confidence in the community that they are making sure all residents are recognized and protected. By submitting accurate monthly reports to the FBI, local police make sure that everyone is counted.

Recognize that the police department is a community itself, and prioritize officer wellness. There is an expectation that officers treat people with respect and maintain control while they are out in the field; to promote this, it is essential that they are treated with respect and taken care of by their department. Especially after a major public safety incident, a chief needs to be aware of how hard people are working, send officers home to recuperate after a series of long days, and understand that officers and their families may need additional support, particularly if they were involved in the violence. As chief, take a high-level look at what decisions need to be made and what actions need to be taken, and be mindful about delegating what you can. You do not have to do it all, and the department and the entire community are counting on you to remain sharp and in good health. 

Oak Creek: Leading a Community in the Aftermath of a Tragedy, was co-authored by Police Chief John Edwards. Edwards is featured, together with OCPD officers, members of Oak Creek’s Sikh community, and many other residents, in a new Not In Our Town film, which documents the powerful community actions that took place in the aftermath of the August 2012 shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. The film was produced as part of a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), to create new tools to help law enforcement and communitypartners work together to prevent hate crimes, improve hate crime reporting, and address underlying tensions that can lead to violence.

Actively engage with partners and the entire community on a regular basis

Don’t wait for a crisis to happen before reaching out to diverse groups in the community and collaborating with partners to bring the larger community together. Work closely with groups that are worried about being targeted for hate crimes. Prioritize time out in the field, talking with residents. Emphasize that they can call or text you about incidents.

Consistent community engagement will help the agency: establish positive relationships; build trust; identify underlying tensions before they erupt into violence; and promote reporting about hate incidents and all types of crime. Activities might include: participate in the “Coffee with a Cop” program; maintain a “chief’s advisory group;” collaborate with community partners to host public movie screenings and other events; hold small round-table forums for law enforcement and community members to have honest dialogues about their experiences, perceptions, questions, and tensions.

Be prepared to address problems that surface and respond to conversations about previous negative interactions with the police.

Develop strategies to overcome language barriers

To effectively communicate with and establish trust with all segments of the population, hire dual-language officers and recruit interpreters from the community to work with law enforcement. Include basic language lessons in mandatory agency training programs.

Inspire youth to be “Upstanders”

In schools and youth groups, engage young people in conversations about the need to speak up when something happens. Make sure they understand the potentially devastating consequences that participating in a hate crime can have on their lives -- especially youth who have participated in lower-level incidents, including vandalism or shouting hate-fueled epithets. To help address conflicts between groups, ask if students are divided by identity and/or experience intolerance and bullying in their school. Within your agency, consider whether you might provide a better way for students to report acts of hate. Invite young people to participate in crime prevention groups.

Community Engagement Resources

Download free videos, guides, and other materials for use in agency trainings and community outreach activities.

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Community Engagement Resources


Build trust with your community by enhancing community policing practices.

The U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office provides guidance, resources, and grant opportunities for agencies looking to implement community policing activities. Learn more on the COPS website.

Not In Our Town (NIOT) offers videos, guides, and online resources showcasing powerful stories of law enforcement-community collaborations in the face of hate and intolerance. Through the Working Together for Safe, Inclusive Communities initiative, NIOT and the COPS Office collaborated to increase awareness of hate crimes, improve hate crime reporting, and promote safe, inclusive communities nationwide. The vital new set of tools spreads successful community policing strategies and helps facilitate connections to community partners, including civic leaders, faith groups, schools, diverse community groups, and local media. All project resources are available on the NIOT website.

Events: Protecting Free Expression and Public Safety

Suffolk County (New York) Police Officer Lola Quesada talks with a community member.

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly tasked with ensuring the safety of the public when local and visiting groups hold protests or conduct public speaking engagements. High-visibility events planned by white supremacist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim, Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi, “alt-right,” anti-government “sovereign citizen,” and other groups can prompt strong community reactions and opposition rallies, often resulting in violent clashes between the groups and destruction of property.

The challenge of protecting freedom of speech rights and avoiding violent interactions and disorder requires special preparation and training.


In 2017, city leaders in Charlottesville, Virginia responded to multiple public protests and demonstrations, including:

  • May 13 – A daytime march and a nighttime demonstration, featuring lit torches, organized by white nationalist, “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer and a local resident in protest of the city’s effort to remove a Civil War statue. Counter-protesters attended both events.
  • May 14 – A candelight vigil focused on embracing diversity and inclusion and condemning the racist ideology of the previous day’s leaders. Violence erupted when Richard Spencer and others from the white nationalist demonstration arrived.
  • July 8 –A Ku Klux Klan demonstration, countered by a vigorous opposition protest.
  • August 11-12 – A major rally of white nationalist and extreme right-wing groups, branded “United the Right,” which included a surprise gathering with lit torches the night before the planned march. By the end of the event, three people had been killed, including a young woman who died when a man drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

In response to the tragic deaths and the chaotic, dangerous atmosphere at these demonstrations, the City of Charlottesville commissioned an independent report to evaluate the city’s advance planning and responses to the events, and provide recommendations to guide future planning. The report was one step towards rebuilding trust with a community frightened, angered, and frustrated by the violence. There is need for much more work to rebuild this trust, and it is critical that active and ongoing engagement with the community targeted for hate help direct this work.


A summary of some of the key points included in the independent report include:

  • The May demonstrations caught Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) by surprise because permits were not required, and events were not announced to the public. Social media monitoring and increased research about these groups and their regional members improves intelligence gathering.
  • Operational plans for the Klan demonstration and the Unite the Right rally would have been significantly more effective if law enforcement had sought out and integrated advice from jurisdictions that had experienced similar events, i.e. successful strategies for managing the Klan and counter-protests, and the need to implement strict separation between opposing groups. Local LE underestimated the potential for violence and were unprepared for violent clashes.
  • Despite the complexity and unique nature of the events, officers did not receive sufficient information or training to be prepared. Department-wide training, all-hands meetings, and day-of briefings cannot be replaced by roll-call updates or email communications. Important training topics include: field training; civil disturbance; mass unrest; de-escalation techniques; First Amendment protected activities; operational goals and contingency plans; and more generally, what to expect at a Klan rally.
  • Most CPD officers did not have riot gear – 80% lacked helmets in advance of the Klan rally – and many lacked familiarity with the gear and sufficient training.
  • Participating agencies must work in coordination and operate within a unified command. Crucial points include: awareness of operations plans; integrated on-site communications; and joint trainings.
  • Poor planning led to several unlawful-assembly declarations, which required aggressive actions by law enforcement to enforce, including forced dispersal with tear gas.
  • Preoccupied with preparations for the Unite the Right rally, city leaders did not sufficiently respond to criticism or questions from the public, or explain tactical decisions after the chaotic Klan rally, leaving residents and business owners feeling extremely frustrated and distrustful.
  • City council’s last-minute efforts to move the Unite the Right rally to a different location forced law enforcement agencies to develop two operational plans. In this regard, city officials should respect LE recommendations.
  • CPD did not receive accurate information about the legality of restricting weapons other than firearms before the Unite the Right event. Though it would have been challenging to enforce a ban on bats, poles, shields, and other objects that can be easily weaponized, such a prohibition would have reduced dangerous encounters.
  • Despite clear evidence of violence at the Unite the Right event, police consistently failed to intervene, de-escalate, or otherwise respond. Attendees claimed that the CPD police chief allowed violent clashes, so the rally could be shut down as illegal later. Participating agencies refused to engage in clashes, to avoid risking harm to officers. As a result, people felt physically vulnerable, despite the formidable law enforcement presence, and the community’s faith in law enforcement was eroded. All agency personnel should be prepared to respond immediately to violence of any kind without unduly jeopardizing officer safety.

The University of Florida Prepares for a White Nationalist Speaker

Two months after the tragic deaths in Charlottesville, Richard Spencer was scheduled to speak at a private, ticketed event on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. In anticipation of the October 19th engagement, the University Police Department worked together with Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Florida Highway Patrol on security plans, and Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency to allow for a quicker response from the National Guard if they were needed. University of Florida Police Department also reached out to law enforcement agencies in Berkeley and Charlottesville, to gather intelligence about Spencer’s recent appearances in their towns.

Security plans implemented for the event enabled Spencer to proceed with his talk (though many in the audience booed and taunted him) and maintained mostly peaceful demonstrations. Five people were treated for minor injuries resulting from scuffles, one person was arrested for resisting an officer’s orders, and another (hired as security by a media outlet) was arrested for carrying a firearm. After Spencer had left the campus, an altercation at a bus stop culminated with a Spencer supporter shooting into a small group of protesters. Nobody was hurt, but the shooter was later picked up with his two companions, and all three were charged with attempted homicide.

University of Florida Police Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick, Assistant Vice President of Public and Environmental Safety, shared the top practices that reduced opportunities for violence and disorder, as identified in their after-action report.


Successful practices included:

  • ICS/NIMS: From the initial planning day, the University of Florida (UF) Police Chief and Assistant Vice President committed to compliance with National Incident Management System (NIMS) standards, including use of Incident Command System (ICS). This framework provided for a consistent and common approach to planning, terminology, resource requests, command, and other facets. A unified Incident Action Plan (IAP) was developed for the event and signed by all three Unified Commanders.
  • Prohibited Items: The University developed a comprehensive list of prohibited items based upon feedback and experiences from the cities of Charlottesville and Berkeley. A draft list was reviewed and adjusted by Public Safety, General Counsel, and University Relations leadership before finalization. The items were banned in order to eliminate makeshift weapons and body armor in the protest areas, and to prevent protestors from covering their faces (i.e., masks and bandanas) – both significant issues in Charlottesville and Berkeley. Observations and anecdotal evidence indicate this action was successful in preventing agitators from attending, and in forcing protestors to dump banned items before entering protest areas. Large banners listing the items were displayed prior to checkpoints into the protest areas. The communicated list of prohibited items was also available on the UF Free Speech website, which provided extensive information about the October 19th event to prepare students, event attendees, professors, and other University staff for the day.
  • Crowd Control: UF employed three layers of security around the venue to protect the crowd. A fourth layer was added by the City of Gainesville’s adjacent SW 34th Street Closure, which marked the first screening for prohibited items. An outer perimeter consisted of road closures and checkpoints that limited vehicle access and provided a second screening for prohibited items. The inner perimeter was constructed of vehicle barriers and barricaded protest areas, providing a third screening for prohibited items. Two protest areas were created with the barricades, designed to separate groups by ideology. An empty zone separated the two areas and was designed to be larger than a protester’s ability to hurl an object at the opposing group. The final layer of security surrounded the venue. Protestors were not allowed in the immediate vicinity of the venue but could see it. Only ticket holders could enter the venue, and everyone, including the speaker and his entourage, had to use walk-through magnetometers. This layer was the fourth screening for prohibited items. A significant, visible police presence enhanced these crowd-control measures.
  • Soft Uniforms: With guidance from the Florida Highway Patrol, the Unified Commanders adopted a soft uniform approach. Protestors did not see a “militarized” look from law enforcement, which can lead to a hostile crowd. Additionally, most law enforcement heavy equipment was staged out of sight from the protestors. “Hard hat teams” or “hatch teams” were readily available and staged for quick response. However, their deployment was only to be initiated if enforcement action was needed.
  • Check-In / Badging Process: With hundreds of responders on scene, maintaining accountability for safety was a significant concern and top priority. Each individual had to check-in the morning of the incident and was given a colored armband. Without an armband, even if in uniform, a person was not allowed on scene. The color of the armband was not made known until that morning in order to prevent forgery. This approach was a larger version of the badging process employed for Gator football games.
  • GIS Support: Simultaneous to the planning for the event, the University was in the process of creating a department to provide GIS resources to administrative units. The Director of that unit was tasked to the effort and created a secure, public safety map interface. The mapping interface overlaid information from all responding agencies over UF data layers. The map was updatable in real time and allowed for coordinated planning in regards to placement of people and resources. UF will be working in the future to better integrate the mapping component into event planning.
Prepare Your Agency

These resources help address the challenges of volatile public events.

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Resources: Preparing for Public Events


  • Final Report: Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia: This independent review provides detailed analysis and recommendations to guide preparations for future events. Read the PDF.
  • Incident Command System: For large protest events, leaders advise following Incident Command System procedures implemented by the National Incident Management System. Learn more at the FEMA website.
  • The Alt-Right on Campus: Southern Poverty Law Center’s guide for students to respond to the “alt-right” on college campuses includes an informative overview of the movement’s background, objectives, and key players.  Learn more at the SPLC website.

Responding to the Crisis of Police-Community Relations

As views of police and the communities they serve become increasingly polarized across the country, the urgency to establish positive community relations has only increased. These local stories highlight how agencies might deepen their commitments and employ new strategies to rise to the challenge.

Arlington, TX: A Community Policing Story

Arlington, TX: A Community Policing Story

The Arlington, TX Police Department demonstrates its commitment to procedural justice, outreach to youth, and long-term investment in building community trust. The video follows the department’s actions in the wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by an Arlington police officer, which puts their relationships to the test.

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Camden's Turn: a story of police reform in progress

Camden’s Turn: A story of police reform in progress

After experiencing years of economic devastation and dramatically high crime rates, the city of Camden, NJ saw its police department dismantled in 2012 and replaced with a county-wide force. Now, the new agency must overcome long-standing obstacles to build trust with residents, create new partnerships, and ultimately shift from a “warrior” mentality to that of a “guardian” and community builder.

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"Right now, the American people are renegotiating the contract to what it means to police America. And the one thing I know with over 20 years policing: You will go into a crisis with the relationships you had before that crisis ever happened."

—Arlington, TX Police Chief Will Johnson

3 | Films & Videos

Lead agency trainings, host community screenings, and inspire action against hate.

Films & Videos

Waking in Oak Creek Trailer

Waking in Oak Creek

Develop a blueprint for strengthening relationships – and leading a community in the aftermath of a deadly hate attack.

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist opened fire in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. Six Sikh worshippers were killed, and Oak Creek Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy, the first responder, was shot 15 times. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards’s powerful response included not only a comprehensive investigation, but also a commitment to accurately report the hate crime, and to work with Mayor Steve Scaffidi and community partners to demonstrate support for the victims and guide all of the town’s residents forward toward healing. (30 minutes) Read the full story.

Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness Trailer

Light in the Darkness

Learn from a town taking action after anti-immigrant violence devastates their community and thrusts them into the international spotlight.

In 2008, a series of attacks against Latino residents of Patchogue, New York, ended with the killing of 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who had lived in the town for 13 years. Seven local high school students arrested for the crime admitted they were “looking for a Mexican” to beat up.

After the tragedy, the Suffolk County Police Department assigned Spanish-speaking officers to Patchogue for the first time to conduct outreach to the Latino immigrant community, and civic leaders and community groups worked together to address the underlying causes of the violence. (60 minutes. 30-minute version also available.) Read the full story.

A Prosecutor's Stand Trailer

A Prosecutor’s Stand

Explore the unique challenges of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes as an Assistant District Attorney brings charges against perpetrators in three cases.

Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang joined the San Francisco D.A.’s office after years of representing victims of hate. The reticence by juries and judges to convict on hate charges didn’t discourage him from pursuing hard-to-win cases, because he was acutely aware of research on the psychological effects of hate crime on victims and had witnessed the social fallout when hate violence was not addressed.

Here, Hwang brings hate crime charges against perpetrators in three highly charged cases featuring: two Latino immigrants; a transgender woman; and an African American homeless man. The story ultimately demonstrates the critical interplay between hate crime victims, law enforcement, and the greater community. (20 minutes) Read the full story

Lessons from a Hate Crime Detective Trailer

Lessons from a Hate Crime Detective

Follow a 29-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff ’s Department as she shares key insights about hate crimes.

When Detective Ellen Vest saw her laid-back California beach community turn into a hotbed of skinhead activity with a sharp rise in bias-motivated crimes, she was determined to arrest perpetrators of hate violence and work with the community to prevent future crimes. Before her retirement in 2013, she developed a training program to help fellow officers and detectives recognize the signs and symbols of hate-based groups, document evidence and suspicions in their reports, and work with prosecutors to identify gang members and investigate hate crimes.

In this seven-minute roll call or training film, Detective Vest shares her key strategies and demonstrates to officers how victims’ lives are affected by hate crimes. (7 minutes) Read the full story

A Hate Crime Detective's Message to High School Students

A Hate Crime Detective’s Message to High School Students

Get a front row seat for a bias crimes investigator’s frank talk with members of the group responsible for the majority of hate crimes—young people.

Bias crimes investigator Detective David D'Amico regularly visits schools to share cautionary advice not only about how derogatory words used online are hurtful, but how they can make the user a target for recruitment by hate groups. His powerful presentation also addresses the serious, long-term consequences of committing hate crimes. D'Amico works in the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, New Jersey. (13 minutes) Read the full story.

4 | Resources

In-depth PDF guides and online resources for use in trainings and community engagement activities.


The Hate Crimes Reporting Gap: Low Numbers Keep Tensions High

Feature in The Police Chief magazine outlines the crisis of the Hate Crimes Reporting Gap and presents practical solutions for agencies.


Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual

FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program manual.


Building Stronger, Safer Communities: A guide for law enforcement to prevent and respond to hate crimes

Produced by Not in Our Town and the COPS Office, provides real-life examples of how agencies can work with community stakeholders to create an atmosphere where hate is not tolerated and take positive steps in the aftermath of a hate crime.


Hate Crimes

Guide produced by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and the COPS Office examines factors that increase the risk of hate crimes and helps police analyze and address local problems.


State Hate Crime Overviews

The Stop Hate project has created an online resource detailing each state's laws and relevant statutes.


Hate on Display™ Hate Symbols Database

Overview of symbols frequently used by white supremacist and other hate groups, created and maintained by the Anti-Defamation League.


Interactive Map of Active Hate Groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center uses interactive maps to track active hate groups across the United States.


Why it Matters: Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Victims of Hate Violence & Intimate Partner Violence

A guide produced by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.


Hate News Index

Investigative news organization ProPublica tracks media reports about hate crimes and bias incidents. 


Webinar: Prosecuting Hate Crimes

A collaboration between Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and Not In Our Town, explores the challenges and complexities of prosecuting hate crimes, supporting victims, and working with law enforcement, targeted communities, and the broader public to build an effective community response to the violence.


Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community – CRS Training Program

Webinar training produced by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service.


Building Trust in a Diverse Nation: How to Serve Diverse Communities

From the Vera Institute and the COPS Office, a practical, field-informed guidance for creating positive, productive relations with all members of our multi-racial, multi-ethnic American population.


As hate group activities and hate and bias incidents rise, concerned community, campus, school, civic, faith and law enforcement leaders and activists actions are needed more than ever. These guides provide effective steps that can help communities face hate and bigotry, and work toward a more inclusive future.



The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law seeks to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law launched the Stop Hate Project to strengthen the capacity of community leaders, law enforcement, and organizations around the country to combat hate by connecting these groups with established legal and social services resources and creating new resources in response to identified needs.

Not in Our Town is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. Not In Our Town films, new media, and organizing tools help local leaders build vibrant, diverse cities and towns, where everyone can participate. Find specific resources for communities, schools and law enforcement on