Evaluating the Integration of Hate Crime Law into Police Practice: A Content Analysis of Police Agency Policies on Hate Crimes in Maryland



Johnson, William Dean

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Policing hate crime is an important task for society to undertake to ensure the safety of some of the most vulnerable members of its population. Undertaking this task requires an understanding of how police agencies are implementing hate crime law into practice, an area of the hate crime literature which has to date, received very little attention. This thesis describes the current state of hate crime policy implementation by police agencies in the state of Maryland, where strong hate crime legislation has been in place for many years. For this study, 25 agencies, which included all county-level agencies, the Baltimore City Police, and the Maryland State Police, formed the sample for the study. These agencies have the primary responsibility for hate crime reporting in Maryland and also represent roughly three quarters of the police force in the state. Of these, 23 were included in the analysis, with two agencies declining to provide information. To understand the state of policy adoption, this research addresses four questions: How prevalent are hate crime policies in law enforcement agencies? How comprehensive are these policies in covering currently identified policy elements used in model policies and expert recommendations for practice? Is there a relationship between agency or jurisdictional characteristics and the presence and comprehensiveness of a policy? And is there additional evidence of a correlation between having a written policy and increased reporting? To better understand the nature of hate crime policy adoption in law enforcement, a content analysis was conducted on the policies of the study agencies. The results indicate that 43% of agencies in the study did not have a hate crime policy. Agencies with hate crime policies tended to be larger agencies serving jurisdictions with larger populations and higher percentages of voters registered as Democrats. Community policing practices in the agency and the jurisdiction’s level of violent crime were not found to have statistically significant relationships to having a hate crime policy. Departments with a written policy were more likely to report hate crime and to report higher levels of hate crime instances compared to those without controlling for the overall level of violent crime in the community. Of the departments that did have written hate crime policies, six agencies scored over 75% on a scale of policy comprehensiveness. The other 7 agencies scored between 47% and 73% on the scale of policy comprehensiveness. The designation of investigative responsibility for hate crime cases, the procedure for reporting hate crimes, and an explanation of the investigative process for hate crime cases were the three most comprehensively covered policy areas. Training for hate crime investigations, references to outside partners and resources for responding to hate crimes or aiding victims, and the conveyance of special emphasis on the importance of policing hate crime were the three least comprehensively covered areas. None of the community and agency factors analyzed in relationship to having or not having a hate crime policy were related to the level of policy comprehensiveness. These findings on the level of policy implementation are similar to those of a California study conducted by Grattet & Jenness in 2005, indicating that the implementation of policies at the department level is in need of further development even in states with strong hate crime laws. Additional work is needed to further the adoption of hate crime policies, and these efforts should focus on areas that are smaller and more politically conservative. The findings provide a better picture of which content areas are being included in hate crime policies, and they show that there is notable variation in what is covered in these policies. However, additional research is required to determine the impact that differing levels of policy comprehensiveness have on the effectiveness of hate crime policing.



Hate crime, Hate crime policies, Hate crime policy adoption, Police agency written reports, Hate crime reporting