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FBI may add Sikhs to hate crime target list after Wisconsin attack

James Cole

In the wake of the domestic terror attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the FBI is considering whether to expand its hate crime reporting procedures to include that religious group.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole told attendees at the Community Relations Service Sikh Cultural Competency Training Preview in Washington, DC, on Sept. 19 that the bureau “must also seek as much information as possible about the nature and cause of religious hate crimes, including those directed at Sikh Americans -- so that we can end them.”

The training program in Washington was convened by the FBI and Sikh community members to open a dialogue about crimes against the religious group after a lone gunman with ties to white supremacist groups entered a Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, in Oak Creek, WI, on August 5, killed six people and wounded four others. The shooter, Michael Wade, was shot by police officers, but died after shooting himself at the scene.

Cole told attendees at the training conference, he would “ask the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board, an independent federal advisory committee that is authorized to propose changes to the Uniform Crime Reports, to examine whether the current hate crime reporting categories should be expanded to include additional categories of religious hate crimes – particularly including hate crimes motivated by anti-Sikh bias.”

Cole noted the Advisory Policy Board includes representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and it would make an independent assessment.

Some lawmakers in Washington have similar aims. The Senate Judiciary convened a hearing on domestic terrorism and hate crimes on Sept. 19 that included the son of one of the Oak Creek victims, who asked that such statistics on crimes against Sikhs be collected. The committee’s chairman Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) told deputy attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil right division Roy Austin, that the government should speed up its actions on data collection on crimes against the group.