COLUMBUS, Ind. – Two recent incidents have prompted the Columbus Police Department to update its policies regarding the reporting of incidents involving alleged bias.
One incident involved racist flyers that were left on cars, parking lots and sidewalks. The other involved a person who reported being called a racial slur. “While these were obviously very disturbing, they did not rise to the level of a crime,” said Columbus Police Lt. Matt Harris. “So therein lies the question of what kind of documentation needs to take place.”
The situations lead to an update to CPD’s General Order pertaining to record keeping. A new line in the policy now states an officer will file a report “when a person alleges a bias-motivated incident, whether or not a crime has been alleged or found.” Such reports will be kept on file at CPD under their own category.
While police agencies are required to file bias crimes with the state, and those records are sent to federal agencies, keeping track of non-criminal bias incidents can serve several purposes, Harris said. Filing the reports in their own category will make it easy for police to track any emerging trends, and the reports could become relevant to future investigations.
“It only takes our officers a couple minutes to do a report, and this way the incident is documented in case additional information comes forth,” Harris said. The new policy is welcome news to Shannon McDonald, Vice President of Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization (CAMEO). The organization works to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion in Columbus.
“Just so people know that they are being tracked, Columbus Police Department is aware of them,” McDonald said. McDonald says he’s been the target of racism in the past. “Walking down the street with a couple buddies that look like me and a truck drives by or a car drives by, a vehicle drives by and they yell the N-word out the window at us,” he said.
Under CPD’s new policy, an incident like that could be reported and a record would be kept on file. McDonald said he applauds the new policy as a step in the right direction.
“It’s not going to get swept under the rug anymore,” McDonald said. “These things are being tracked and I think it’s important for the public to know that.”
Over time, Harris says data collected in the reports could be utilized by the departments outreach and education programs. The new policy was implemented this week and is currently in effect.