March 25, 2015 (Washington, DC) – After nearly four years of community advocacy, the Sikh Coalition is pleased to announce that the U.S. government now officially has a system in place to track hate crimes motivated by Anti-Sikh bias.
The Sikh Coalition first raised this issue in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General in 2011. Our demand was endorsed by over 130 U.S. Senators and Members of Congress and echoed at a U.S. Senate hearing by Harpreet Singh Saini in the wake of the Oak Creek tragedy. In 2013, the U.S. Attorney General announced that the FBI would begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority communities.
After nearly two years, the FBI has released a new version of a training manual for law enforcement that includes guidelines for tracking Anti-Sikh hate crimes. Although the manual still needs further improvement, it mentions Sikhs for the first time and has the potential to educate thousands of law enforcement officials about Sikhs.
Sikh Coalition Next Steps – Focus on Training and Prevention
Now that the FBI officially recognizes Anti-Sikh hate crimes, the Sikh Coalition will continue to prioritize improvements to law enforcement training. In the past, when crimes were committed against Sikhs because of their identity, local law enforcement officials sometimes failed to investigate or charge these incidents as hate crimes due to ignorance about Sikh religious practices.
The federal government’s recognition of Anti-Sikh hate crimes means that police departments nationwide will have an opportunity to learn about the Sikh community. With the benefit of Sikh awareness training, we are hopeful that law enforcement officials will do a better job investigating and prosecuting bias incidents against Sikhs when they occur. The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with the FBI to improve these training materials moving forward.
We are also hopeful that this catalyzes more time and money to hate crime prevention, with an emphasis on bias prevention programs in our nation’s schools, local communities, and armed services now that data on Sikhs is being collected. It is critical to track hate crimes, but our top organizational priority is always working to improve prevention methods.