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 Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

 In the interest of providing information regarding institutional responses to current campus issues, I'd like to share the following message from CU Police Chief Joe Roy.

Investigating Intolerance
By Joe Roy, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety

During the past year, some members of the campus community have been the targeted victims of bias-motivated criminal activity. Others have been made uncomfortable or fearful for their personal safety by virtue of their knowledge of these targeted acts, or more generalized indications of hate, such as racist, sexist or homophobic graffiti placed on the walls of campus buildings. I"ve been asked to provide some information about the University Police Department"s responsibilities and practices regarding the investigation of these incidents.

Typically, the persons who commit these acts do so in ways designed to provide them with anonymity. The identification of these kinds of perpetrators is difficult. Modern police forensic techniques provide a variety of options supporting the identification of perpetrators, and we use them when appropriate. In most cases we can apply these techniques using our own resources; in some cases we"ve sought help from external agencies, such as the FBI.

Forensic techniques are not always applicable or fruitful. Police departments still rely heavily on information provided by concerned, responsible community members. If you or persons that you know have information that could help in the identification of persons committing acts of intolerance or other crimes on campus, please contact us at 303-492-6666. The enhancement of public safety is the responsibility of all, and the successful resolution of cases by police is invariably a reflection of good community support. From the public safety perspective, we are interested in hearing about intolerant behaviors whenever they occur, whether or not the activity rises to the level of a criminal offense. Information about these occurrences helps us assess their tenor and frequency, and provides us with information that could support the identification of perpetrators.

When perpetrators are identified, our responses vary based upon the circumstances of the incident and the applicability of law or university policies. Troublesome behavior may be in violation of university policies, but not in violation of the law. We refer cases of this sort to the responsible campus administrative entities, e.g., the Office of Judicial Affairs, the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.

Violations of the law are typically handled by the arrest and charging of the perpetrator. “Arrest” is used here in a technical sense; most of these persons are not taken into physical custody and lodged in jail. Instead, officers issue them summonses that order them to appear in court regarding the listed charges.

Officers are trained to approach enforcement circumstances objectively and to address all of the violations identified during their investigations. Victims of bias motivated incidents can have powerfully emotional responses to these affronts, including physical retaliation. Colorado law allows persons to use combative physical force only to defend themselves from unlawful physical attack. Victims of verbal or other non-physical bias motivated offenses who respond by physically attacking the offender may be subject to criminal charges. Persons charged under these circumstances may view the police response as rubbing salt into their wounds.

Fundamentally however, the issue in these cases is the commission of offenses/wrongs by one person against another. Legal proscriptions against harmful interpersonal behaviors reflect society"s desire to protect the safety of individuals. Police are responsible for enforcing the law and thereby reinforcing its intent. Officers must respond objectively and decisively to crimes of violence, be they emotional or physical. Failure to do so is to tacitly condone actions that undermine civil behavior. When appropriate, we will charge persons who have committed criminal offenses, regardless of their place as the initiator or respondent in the episode.

A variety of charges have been filed by University Police Officers against the perpetrators of crimes in which intolerance or bias was an apparent motivation on the part of the offender. Charges levied include “Use of Fighting Words,” “Assault” and “Bias Motivated Crime.”

Contrary to what might be expected in these instances, we"ve applied the charge of “Bias Motivated Crime” less frequently than others. This is because the elements of Colorado"s “Bias Motivated Crime” statute restrict its applicability to offenses where intent based in bias, and an action that causes or is intended to cause injury or damage to property occurs. The statute requires:

  • that the perpetrator intends to intimidate or harass another because of that person"s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation; and:
  • knowingly causes injury to that person or another, or;
  • knowingly damages the property of that person or another, or;
  • by words or conduct, places another person in fear of “imminent” lawless action that is likely to injure that person or damage that person"s property.

We"ve charged persons with “Bias Motivated Crime” in cases where the offender"s actions met the elements of the statute. However, most of the cases reported to us that appear to be bias motivated have not met the statute"s required elements.

I yearn for the day when discussions of this sort will no longer be necessary. Until then, the University Police Department will continue to do all that it can to identify the perpetrators of bias motivated and other crimes to enhance the safety of our community.

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