Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report

September 30, 1999





By: Christopher Reinhart, Research Attorney

You asked for a summary of Massachusetts' hate crime reporting law and the initiatives of the Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes.


Massachusetts adopted the Hate Crimes Reporting Act in 1990. The legislation created a Crime Reporting Unit to collect hate crime incident reports from law enforcement and required the unit to summarize and report on the information. Regulations establish criteria for determining whether a crime is a hate crime, provide a means for advocacy organizations to report hate incidents, specify the content of crime and incident reports, and specify the content of the annual report.

In 1991, the governor created the Task Force on Hate Crimes. The task force's principal tasks are (1) developing regulations to implement the Hate Crimes Reporting Act, (2) coordinating training efforts, (3) increasing submission of hate crime data, and (4) working with community organizations and victims' groups. Initiatives for 2000 include pilot programs in high schools, youth diversion programs, a new correctional diversity awareness program, outreach coordination, a victimization survey in schools, public awareness, creating civil rights investigative teams, encouragement of reporting by law enforcement, and continued training.


In 1990, Massachusetts created a Crime Reporting Unit as a joint project of the Department of State Police and the Criminal History Systems Board to collect hate crime incident reports from state, local, and campus police and other law enforcement authorities. Under the statute, the State Police must promulgate regulations to create a central repository where the unit collects, analyzes, reports, and maintains hate crime data. The regulations also must set procedures for (1) effective data gathering and preservation, protection, and disclosure of confidential information, (2) soliciting and accepting reports, and (3) assessing the credibility and accuracy of reports of hate crime data from law enforcement.

The statute defines a hate crime as a criminal act with an overt action motivated by bigotry or bias. These acts must be motivated at least in part by racial, religious, ethnic, handicap, gender, or sexual orientation prejudice and (1) deprive a person of constitutional rights by threats, intimidation, or coercion or (2) interfere or disrupt a person's exercise of a constitutional right by harassment or intimidation. The definition specifically includes violations of a number of hate crime laws.

The statute requires the unit to summarize and analyze the information it collects including incident reports, records, and statistics relating to hate crimes. It must distribute periodic reports analyzing and interpreting crime rates and trends and send copies of all reports to the governor, attorney general, and committees on public safety, criminal justice, judiciary, and ways and means. Annual reports are public records.

Any hate crime data collected must be available to law enforcement, local governments, state agencies, and the public subject to confidentiality requirements.


Classifying a Crime as a Hate Crime

The regulations define a hate crime as a crime in which hatred or bias is a contributing factor in the commission of the crime. The regulations classify a crime as a hate crime when bias indicators, in the exercise of law enforcement judgement, directly or circumstantially support a bias motive. The regulations list 21 bias indicators to assist law enforcement. The evidence of motivation does not have to be conclusive. One bias indicator can be sufficient in some circumstances to infer that bias or bigotry motivated the crime. Facts or circumstances for an arrest or charge under certain statutes are automatically sufficient for reporting a hate crime. In addition, it is still a hate crime if the offender was mistaken in the belief of the victim's membership in a racial, ethnic/national origin, handicap, gender, or sexual orientation group, as long as the offender was motivated by bias against that group.

Bias Motive

The regulations define a bias motive as hatred, hostility, negative attitude, or prejudice about a group or individual because of race, religion, ethnicity, handicap, gender, or sexual orientation, which contributes to a criminal act. The motive can be inferred from the presence of bias indicators. A motive can also consist of intent to interfere with, disrupt, or deprive a person of his constitutional rights by threats, intimidation, harassment, or coercion.

The table below shows the specific forms of bias covered.

Racial, Ethnic,National


Racial Ethic,National


Sexual Orientation Bias



Religious Bias

Anti-Gay (Male)






Anti-Other Sexual Orientation





Anti-Islamic (Moslem)



Anti-Other Religion


Handicap Bias

Gender Bias


Anti-Persons with AIDS



Anti-Physically Disabled



Anti-Mentally Disabled (mental illness, mental retardation)


Bias Indicators

The regulations set out a list of 21 bias indicators to assist in determining whether a crime is a hate crime. The list is not exclusive and the regulations specify that each case must be examined on its own facts and circumstances. The list focuses on characteristics of the offender, characteristics of the victim, circumstances of the crime, and the location of the crime. The bias indicators are described as objective facts, circumstances, or patterns connected to a criminal act that suggest the offender's actions were motivated in whole or part by bias.

Police Reports

The Secretary of Public Safety must solicit hate crimes reports from law enforcement by (1) informing them of the need to report all incidents and including all requested information on the report form and (2) urging them, at least once a year, to report crimes for inclusion in the Annual Report.

Police should report a hate crime when a bias motive becomes evident or periodically (no longer than a year) and should report an incident even when no hate crime or civil rights charges are referred or prosecuted.

Hate Incidents

Under the regulations, the unit must solicit reports of hate incidents from other reliable sources, such as advocacy and civil rights agencies. Advocacy organizations are defined as nonprofit or not-for-profit groups (1) representing or serving people targeted in hate crimes or (2) gathering information relating to incidents, circumstances, patterns, causes, or the nature of any type of hate crime.

Hate incidents are acts, whether criminal or not, with at least one bias indicator showing a bias motive. Bias must be a contributing factor. The act can be conduct, speech, or expression.

In order to make reports, representatives of an advocacy organization or civil rights agency must receive training in the classification of hate incidents. The unit may conduct the training or use curricula developed by the Criminal Justice Training Council.

The unit must collect, tabulate, and report this data separately from hate crime data. The unit must regularly share its crime and incident data with the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports Section and make it available to law enforcement on request.

Annual Report

The regulations require the annual report to summarize and analyze hate crime data and include the:

1. overall number of hate crimes for the reporting period;

2. number of hate crimes by city and town and by type of bias;

3. number of hate crimes by type of criminal act;

4. number of hate crimes by type of target and injuries involved and statistical analyses of the types of victims by age, race/ethnicity, sex, and extent of injury;

5. statistical analyses of types of perpetrators by age, race/ethnicity, sex, and frequency of arrests and convictions;

6. number of hate crimes by weapon used; and

7. trends in the frequency, location, and type of hate crimes reported.

The analysis must provide a basis for comparison with data obtained through law enforcement sources and should reflect the extent to which hate incidents are reported to police.


The governor created the Task Force on Hate Crimes in 1991 to implement the Hate Crimes Reporting Act of 1990. In 1998, it received formal and permanent standing. The task force states its four principal tasks as:

1. developing regulations to implement the Hate Crimes Reporting Act;

2. coordinating training efforts (including the Student Civil Rights Project created in 1998 to extend training to schools);

3. increasing submission of hate crime data to the Crime Reporting Unit, encouraging reporting and training of law enforcement officers, and encouraging police departments to designate a civil rights officer to coordinate local reporting; and

4. outreach to community organizations and victim's groups to increase reporting.

The task force's activities include initiatives to strengthen enforcement of anti-hate crime laws and improve reporting of hate crimes by victims, witnesses, and police. The task force emphasizes prevention, better responsiveness by police and schools, public awareness efforts, outreach to affected communities, remedial tools, and aggressive law enforcement.

Recent Publications

The task force recently published the 1998 Hate Crimes Resource Manual for Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals. The manual provides a legal overview, instruction on investigative techniques, and information on hate crime in schools. It was distributed to law enforcement and victim assistance organizations. The task force's Educators Resource Manual provides a legal overview, preventive steps for schools, and a victim assistance resource list. In addition, the task force created a web site providing an overview of the task force's activities, publications, resources, and information on hate crime laws (

Initiatives for 2000

The task force's initiatives for 2000 include pilot programs in high schools, youth diversion programs, a new correctional diversity awareness program, outreach coordination, a victimization survey in schools, public awareness, creating civil rights investigative teams, encouraging reporting by law enforcement, and continued training.

Civil Rights Teams. The task force plans to start pilot programs in seven high schools. The program recruits three students from each grade level, faculty, and community advisors at each school. Teams meet at least once every other week. A contractor provides training and assists the Student Civil Rights Project. Administrators provide transportation for training and schedule in-service training for all faculty and staff. The task force provides support and trains faculty and staff to support the program and its initiatives and familiarizes them with how to respond to civil rights violations.

Youth Diversion Program. The task force plans a pilot statewide program at about 40 high schools to target non-violent civil rights violators. The program is a tool for schools to respond to hate crimes and incidents and the task force hopes it will be included in school conduct codes. Under the program, a contractor recruits high school students to participate. The program includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of community service. The program examines prejudice and how it leads to hate crime and promotes respect and understanding. It attempts to teach empathy, conflict resolution, and awareness of hate groups. The program will include victim impact presentations, testimony from Holocaust survivors, instruction by civil rights educators and advocates, and legal information.

Maintenance and Updating of Web Site. The task force plans to expand the web site developed by its Student Civil Rights Project in 1998 ( The site provides information on victim assistance, conflict resolution, and diversity issues for schools. It also includes a reporting service and staff follow-up on reported hate incidents. Future plans include a searchable database of resources and organizations and an interactive hate crimes curricula.

Correctional Diversity Awareness Program. The task force is developing a new curriculum for the diversity awareness program. Massachusetts law requires offenders convicted of certain hate crimes to take part in a diversity awareness program prior to release from incarceration or probation. The program will likely consist of a week of classroom instruction, presentations, videos, and role-playing exercises. The task force will submit the program to the chief administrative justice of the trial court for approval and expects the new program to begin early in 2000.

Outreach Coordination. The task force attempts to address the underreporting of hate crimes with outreach programs and assistance to organizations. This includes (1) identifying organizations available to help hate crime victims; (2) offering training, technical assistance, and help identifying resources and funding sources for agencies; and (3) acting as a public liaison.

Victimization Survey of Schools. The task force plans a school survey to look at the (1) levels of bias and hate crime in schools, (2) rate of reporting crimes to staff and police, (3) reasons for nonreporting, and (4) factors that lead students to conclude that an event was hate or bias motivated. They will also conduct interviews at each high school about the existing structure for reporting and responding to crimes and the availability and use of victim support services.

Public Awareness. The task force's public awareness initiatives include public service announcements, poster campaigns, and pamphlets in schools

Civil Rights Investigative Teams. The task force and the State Police are collaborating to establish civil rights investigative teams. Each team will include trained individuals at each District Attorney's Office. The team will have primary investigative responsibility for hate crimes when the State Police are involved. They will also provide back up to local police and can provide police training and community outreach.

100% Participation in Reporting Hate Crimes. The task force promotes reporting of hate crimes by law enforcement. Data collection began in 1991 and 1997 was the second year of virtual 100% participation by law enforcement agencies.

Continued Training. The task force conducts on-site and regional training for schools, law enforcement agencies, and community advocates. The task force plans three regional conferences in the fall and spring for law enforcement and school civil rights personnel.