In Howard County, we take reports of Hate-Bias Incidents (HBI) very seriously and log every reported incident, even when there is little investigative information available to pursue. Our policy requires that no HBI be unreported by police, even if motivation or suspect information cannot be confirmed.
We believe that even the cases that are inconclusive are important to track to ensure our agency is monitoring any and all HBI incidents and possible trends. There is simply no place for hateful words or acts in Howard County. See below for FAQs.
Hate-Bias Incident: An HBI is any hostile expression, language or behavior that may be motivated by another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. HBIs may be offensive or racist but are not illegal. Examples include but are not limited to
- Name calling; racial, ethnic or other slurs; degrading language
- Creating racist or derogatory images/drawings
- Imitating someone’s cultural norm or practice
Hate Crime: A hate crime is a criminal act motivated by bias against another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity that violates the law. Hate crimes may include verbal, physical or visual expressions of hate, but also must have an additional criminal element. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Assaulting, injuring, or even touching someone in an offensive manner because of hate or bias
- Creating racist or derogatory graffiti on someone else’s property based on hate or bias
- Threatening to physically harm a person, their family or their property based on hate or bias
Howard County police officers document every report where any person perceives that an incident may have been motivated by bias, even if that motivation can never be determined or proven.
When Howard County officers respond to a hate-bias incident or hate crime, they thoroughly investigate the case and take immediate enforcement action, if possible. Notifications are immediately made to supervisors, commanders and the Community Outreach Section for tracking and reporting, as well as the Office of Human Rights. As a commitment to provide closure for victims of HBIs, a follow-up report on the investigation is conducted every 10 days by the initial responding officer, until all investigative leads are exhausted.
When Howard County officers determine that an incident is classified as a “hate crime” because it does include a criminal act—such as assault, graffiti, etc.—it is investigated with the goal of making an arrest whenever possible. In these cases, an additional hate-related charge may apply, in conjunction with the primary criminal violation. This is based on the violator’s motive and intent.
If you believe you were targeted in any way because of hate or bias, or if you observe hateful images, behavior or speech, you should immediately call police by dialing 911 or non-emergency, 410-313-2200. Never hesitate to contact police to make a report so that we can address your incident and track patterns or trends.
The HCPD will interview both the victim and the suspect, if the reported violator can be identified. If there is evidence that a hate crime was committed, charges will be filed. In cases where criminal charges do not apply, the interaction will be documented and tracked by the police department and the Office of Human Rights.
In an effort to remain inclusive to all residents in Howard County, the HCPD has full-time community outreach officers who serve as liaisons to various ethnic and cultural groups. For more information on how these liaisons can conduct meetings and/or presentations for your community, please contact us at [email protected].