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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

January 2022 | Volume 15 | Issue 1

According to the FBI’s 2020 hate crime report, law enforcement agencies reported 8,263 criminal incidents and 11,129 related offenses motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

While less than five percent were reported as having occurred at schools and colleges, the actual number may be higher, due to victims’ reluctance to report such incidents or ignorance of how to do so.

Yet the effects of any bias incident at a school or college, even noncriminal offences such as insulting language, not only make the victims feel threatened but create an atmosphere of fear and anger that undermines the educational mission of the institution.

And if not called out by authorities, racial slurs and other biased behavior sends a message that prejudice is accepted within the campus community, which can lead to more aggressive behavior, even violence.

Recognizing this, universities across the country are adopting policies and initiating programs to counter all incidents of bias. Among them is the Michigan State University Police and Public Safety Department (MSUPPSD) in East Lansing, Michigan, which has instituted several programs, provided specialized training for officers and staff, and offered informational resources to the campus community and departmental personnel.

Said Florene McGlothian-Taylor, Captain of the MSUPPSD’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program, “Most of the reports don’t rise to the level of a hate crime because of the right to free speech. But even if hateful language isn’t criminal, it still hurts people and a bias incident can escalate into a crime.”

“To create a culture that works against that, we established the Inclusion and Anti-Bias Unit (IABU), which works with campus and community partners.”

Partnering with Students, Faculty and Staff

The MSUPPSD collaborates with numerous departments on campus, particularly with the MSU Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS).

When a bias incident is reported to the MSUPPSD or a REHS staff member, the incident is forwarded to the IABU for investigation. If determined to be a crime, the report is forwarded to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office; otherwise, resources are sent to the complainant.

Another department the MSUPPSD collaborates with is the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, which promotes diversity programs. Among these programs is a semester-long intergroup dialogue course for faculty, staff and students which examines ways for different identity groups to understand each other. The department also provides posters with guidance on how to recognize, respond to, and apologize for insensitive remarks.

Said McGlothian-Taylor, “We also encourage our officers to go through the dialogue program in order to learn about cultures, religions, and other differences.”

The IABU partners with leaders from the Associated Students of MSU, the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and Council of Progressive Students at MSU. According to McGlothian-Taylor, the Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police, Marlon Lynch, has made this kind of schoolwide collaboration a priority.

“We have to work together to solve many of these issues,” he said, stressing the importance of these relationships to ensuring that MSU students, faculty, and staff have the resources they need in any difficult situation.

Wide Ranging Training and Identification of Bias Groups

Based on one of the recommendations from the university’s Task Force on Racial Equity, Lynch established a Police and Public Safety Advisory Committee that represents faculty and staff as well as students and is co-chaired by two students.

The MSUPPSD’s Community Engagement and Community Policing Unit allows the department to collaborate with the community and campus members to offer diversity training as well.

Creating a public awareness campaign that provides information and resources and sends the message that bias and harassment will not be tolerated is essential to preventing hate crimes and bias incidents. Acknowledging this, McGlothian-Taylor says, “We reach out to students, faculty, and staff to let them know what actions can be taken and how we can help.”

The department also raises awareness of hate groups and publications that go by misleading names. “We’ve learned the importance of educating our community so that they recognize these groups, so they know what the groups stand for when they see signage about meetings or
fliers on campus.”

The MSUPPSD trains all personnel on implicit bias and microaggressions, too. Some members have also completed an LGBTQA+ training called Quest, which is offered online through the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center.

In January 2022, an in-service training session will be facilitated by a member of the transgender community to talk about issues related to gender identity. Officers also attend webinars offered by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to learn more about hate crimes.

Busting Bias About Muslims, Indians, Latin Americans, and other Groups

To get to the root of biases and the misunderstandings that cause them, McGlothian-Taylor ordered Bias Busters, an 18-book series on cultural competence, and distributed them to officers.

Published by MSU’s School of Journalism and researched and written by students, the books dispel myths and answer questions about various groups of people: Jewish, Gay, African American, Millennial, and others. There are even books about police and military veterans. Each book follows the format of 100 questions and answers about the group in question, with sections on culture, language, religions, social norms, politics, history, families, and food.

The department has also made the books available free of charge in its lobby. “People who come into our office, for parking permits or other reasons, take them off the shelf all the time,” says McGlothian-Taylor.

Asked what effect these programs have had on creating a culture of respect, McGlothian-Taylor says that educating the community has led to individuals being able to have uncomfortable conversations and a better understanding of those different than themselves. They may not always agree, but at least they are talking.

Promising Practices for Preventing Hate Crimes and Fostering an Atmosphere of Respect

  • Provide Training in Bias and Hate Crimes
  • Collaborate with Administration, Faculty, Staff, Student, and Community Groups
  • Educate and Inform Students, Faculty and Staff
  • Conduct a Schoolwide Awareness Campaign
  • Respond Quickly and Compassionately
  • Provide Victim Services

Photos courtesy of the Michigan State University Police and Public Safety Department.

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