BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Bloomington Police Department is standing alongside more than 50 police agencies across the nation to fight hate crimes. The movement aims to better educate the public about hate crimes happening in their own communities and hopefully make victims feel safer about reporting.
Few agencies track hate crimes data, because many areas don’t have laws requiring them to do so. But with leadership from the National Police Foundation, agencies across the country, including here in Indiana, are hoping to show how tracking that kind of information can actually lead to strong trust between law enforcement and the community.
In 2015, Bloomington café owner Naciye Akgun was attacked by a former IU student, who attempted to tear off her headscarf. He later pleaded guilty to battery, but an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice ultimately decided the attack was not a hate crime. Today, Akgun supports efforts to better track hate and biased-related incidents.
“People need to be aware of this and give support,” said Akgun.
And now the police department in the place she calls home is leading the way to do just that.
“We’d been doing it for a long time and they contacted us early on about participating in that program and we signed on with them to do that,” said Chief Mike Diekhoff of the Bloomington Police Department, “it’s a better education component to the community to know what’s going on.”
Bloomington has been collecting hate crime data for years, said Diekhoff. He sees it not just as another crime-fighting tool, but a way to build trust.
“By reporting that I think it just gives some transparency as to what the issues are,” said Diekhoff.
It’s also a way to make victims feel safer about going to police.
“They will feel more comfortable to come out and tell, and they’re not going to hide,” said Akgun.
Officials say hate crimes are often under-reported. They hope this effort not only discourages people from carrying-out hate-related crimes, but helps communities better understand why they happen in the first place.