[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Congressman Joe Donnelly. Representative Donnelly recently voted against the federal hate crimes bill that passed the House of Representatives. Only fourteen democratic legislators voted against the bill; two were from Indiana. Indiana's other NO vote, Congressman Brad Ellsworth, will guest post tomorrow. Please be as courteous with your comments as you would if you were talking to the Congressman face-to-face. See our comments policy for any questions.
Thank you for allowing me to share my views on H.R. 1592, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as a guest poster on Bilerico. I appreciate the productive atmosphere this blog promotes in allowing multiple viewpoints to be heard and considered.
I took many factors into consideration before ultimately deciding to vote against H.R. 1592. Not least of those factors was the input I received from my constituents. All told, I received nearly five times as many calls, emails and letters from opponents of the bill as I did from its supporters. But that was not the only factor: I also question whether a federal hate crimes law would truly be effective in ending the abhorrent acts of violence that are fueled by hate.
The sad reality is that all violent crimes are in some way born of hate. I am sickened at the thought of any human being acting out in violence against any other human being. Thankfully, our society decided hundreds of years ago that acts of violence perpetrated against innocent individuals should be forbidden. These acts are criminal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The chief law enforcement officers in our communities-our prosecutors-do their level-best to punish violent criminals for their actions. For this service, we owe them a debt of gratitude. However, prosecutors, whether at the local, state or federal level, cannot eradicate hate from our society. It is up to us-in how we raise our children and how we treat one another-to limit the impact hate has on our communities. But as long as there are people who hate, envy or are jealous or angry, there will be violent crimes against innocent people, regardless of whether a federal hate crimes law like H.R. 1592 is on the books.
I don't mean to imply with my reasoning that Congress should simply throw up its hands and do nothing to further crack down on crime. To the contrary, Congress has an obligation to set policies that help make our communities safer places to live. While I am not convinced that a federal hate crimes law would reduce the incidence of crime in our communities, Congress should play an active role in supporting the work of our police departments and prosecutors. For example, I support increasing funding for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which helps state and local law enforcement entities hire new prosecutors and pay for overtime, training and equipment. I am also a cosponsor of a bill that would reauthorize the Community-Oriented Policing, or COPS, Program. If passed into law, it would put an additional 50,000 police officers onto our streets.
Thank you again for allowing me to address your concerns about this important issue. I hope that we can continue our dialogue in the future so I can do my best to represent the people of the 2nd District of Indiana.
Congressman Joe Donnelly
Indiana 2nd Congressional District
[UPDATE 5/10] Representative Brad Ellsworth has guest blogged now. You can find his post here.