Hate crimes underreported to MUPD

MUPD Major Scott Richardson said that despite the recent incidents coming into the public’s attention, the rate of hate crime occurring at MU have “remained steady.”

Incidents of hate have been in the news more recently on MU’s campus, with the high-profile harassment of Missouri Students Association President Payton Head and then, less than a month later, the racist comments toward the Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming Court.

Between 2012 and 2015, nine hate crime reports have been filed with the MU Police Department.

MUPD Maj. Scott Richardson said though these incidents have come into light consecutively, the rates of hate crime occurring at MU have “remained steady.” Of the nine reports filed and investigated by MUPD, four occurred in 2015. However, hate crimes or discrimination incidents are not solely in the hands of MUPD.

“There are lots of incidents that are not reported to MU Police,” Richardson said. “So Title IX, the Equity Office, those kind of places also take you in, and student conduct, those kinds of places take in complaints of that nature as well.”

The complainant can go through Equity Office services, which allows the incident to be investigated and handled by Equity Office investigators through filing a formal report with MUPD or both.

“If it’s an actual crime, I believe it gets reported to us; it may not, it’s up to the victim to do that,” Richardson said. “But, typically when there is a crime involved, we are the law enforcement agency for this jurisdiction so we are the one that would take action.”

MUPD and MU’s policy define a hate crime similarly.

The Missouri Highway Patrol defines a hate crime “as a criminal offense committed against persons, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.” The Equity Office defines a hate crime as a criminal act against an individual's property that is motivated by biases toward a certain identity. Their webpage also adds that “hate itself is not a crime.”

The victims of racism at the LBC Homecoming Court rehearsal Oct. 4 did report their incident to MUPD, and the case is still considered active.

“There is no criminal offense listed in the police report,” Richardson said. “So based upon that officer’s current investigation, it doesn’t mean that they are done, but based upon current investigation it is not labeled as a criminal incident. It’s an open active case, but presently there is no offense listed.”

Head also filed charges with MUPD after a perpetrator in a passing car shouted racial slurs at him on Sept. 11. Public knowledge of the harassment became widespread after Head detailed his ordeal in viral Facebook post, but the case is still pending.

“There’s been no one identified yet,” MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said. “The case is still open but no one has been identified at this time.”

Earlier this year, the Equity Office released an annual report detailing the number of bias reports filed and the reports’ resolutions between 2014 and 2015. In that time frame, 40 bias reports were filed with the Equity Office.

Of those 40 reports, 30 percent were based on race, which amounted to 12 reports, nine of which were ethnicity-based biases.

The Equity Office also published how these incidents were resolved. One of the 40 incidents was solved through “mediation.” It cites mediation as an informal process that is outside of the boundaries of the administrative structure. The individuals who conduct the mediation “will not take any action on problems uncovered through the mediation process.”

Of the bias reports under the resolution table, 13 were listed as “insufficient info/anonymous complaint.” Twelve reports were “referred to another office.”

Freshman Wesley Woodson said "there is only so much" the university can do to combat hate offenses.

"They’ve been trying to raise awareness of the hate (offenses) that have been happening, so as long as they are doing that, they are doing their job," Woodson said.

The Equity Office is not a part of the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, but both programs “work very, very closely together,” MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

The Chancellor's Diversity Initiative is intended “to promote inclusiveness, promote diversity and create a welcoming campus for everyone,” Basi said. He said that this is done through workshops and seminars which facilitate dialogues, along with funding various organizations and programs.

Basi said Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin has asked for a full review of the Diversity Initiative to determine which programs have been successful and which have "not given us exactly what we are hoping for." The chancellor is planning to make changes based on that review, Basi said.

Woodson said that if he were to be the victim of a hate crime, he would feel comfortable reporting it to police.

“I would definitely feel safe reporting it. It’s up to the police to do their job and to handle it, and if they did not handle it then they are obviously not doing their job," Woodson said. "I wouldn’t feel like I would have to cover up what happened to me just to feel safe.”

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