Justice Horn gives KCPD more power by pushing City Council to get tougher on hate crimes

Heralded as a bold step against LGBTQ+ hate, Justice Horn and City Council reinvest in our criminal legal system and prison industrial complex by passing Ordinance 231032: a new hate crime sentence enhancement. The post Justice Horn gives KCPD more power by pushing City Council to get tougher on hate crimes appeared first on Kansas City Defender.

Justice Horn gives KCPD more power by pushing City Council to get tougher on hate crimes

(L-R) Edited cutouts of Kansas City LGBTQ+ Commission Chair Justice Horn and Police Chief Stacey Graves–and their affiliated logos–face each other.

On January 11 2024, Kansas City’s City Council voted unanimously to enact ordinance 231032: a new ordinance that establishes hate crime sentence enhancements at the municipal level. Heralded as a bold step against LGBTQ+ hate, this move by City Council only strengthens our City’s abysmally-ranked police department, and furthers the falsehood that criminalization is a “solution” for ending hatred. 

Ordinance 231032 makes criminal punishment more severe

Under newly-passed Ordinance 231032, a hate crime sentence enhancement will be established at the municipal level and allow prosecutors to prove if an offense was motivated by bias. This means that this ordinance explicitly does not allow for charging hate crime as a sole offense and, instead allows prosecutors to stack charges against defendants. The penalty enhancement should someone be charged with a hate crime are as follows:

  • Enhanced Fine: a minimum fine of $300 for the underlying offense
  • Enhanced Penalty: a sentence enhancement of up to sixty [60] days
  • Continuing Violation: each day’s violation constitutes a separate offense

Ordinance 231032 was introduced to City Council on December 7 and proposed by the LGBTQ+ Commission of Kansas City, founded and led by Justice Horn. The Ordinance was also sponsored by Andrea Bough, Crispin Rea, Jonathan Duncan, and Eric Bunch. 

In a letter to the city council, the LGBTQ+ Commission expressed their blatant intention to leverage police and other municipality measures as a deterrent for hate crime.

“The ordinance would give law enforcement, the city prosecutor, and the municipal division of the circuit court an additional tool to protect victims of hate crimes in the City of Kansas City.”

“Hate crimes” do not prevent hate, they increase police power

Horn and Kansas City Council’s faith in the criminal legal system and prison industrial complex as proponents of justice for marginalized communities is flawed and dangerous. 

At the base-level, they fail to recognize how policing and criminalization disproportionately impacts Black community–specifically in Missouri. In fact, a report on hate crimes (conducted by the Movement Advancement Project in 2021) showed that Black people constituted 11% of the population in Missouri, but nearly 33% of federal law enforcement-reported hate crimes listed Black offenders.

At the national level, since the very first federal hate crime statute was passed in 1968, the data derived from hate-crime reports has dually been altered and weaponized as another tool for white supremacy. In a report with Prism, Mai Tran, an investigative reporter based in New York, writes,

“The kinds of violence that make up what are now considered “hate crimes” are foundational to the U.S. as a settler-colonial nation, but they were not codified as crimes of bigotry until the country passed a federal hate crimes statute in 1968. Since then, hate crime data has been flawed and manipulated. The NYPD, for example, counts crimes stemming from something called “anti-white bias,” separate from “anti-homosexual” or “anti-Jewish” bias, as a hate crime.”

Flawed data and reports also create the pretense for police and council members alike to advocate for increased funding, surveillance and collection of crime statistics by police departments. 

A good example of this is Matthew Sephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal bill in 2010 that significantly expanded police power. This new law granted authorities at the federal-level to assist in local investigations of hate crimes through increased funding, and also made more funds available for increased police training and surveillance of young people. Furthermore, the act added military personnel as a “protected class.” Some might remember even further extensions of these in 2014-2015 known as “Blue Lives Matter laws,” or even today, wherein Kansas City is now required to allocate 25% of its overall budget to KCPD as opposed to other public issues, like transit and housing.

Hamid Khan, an organizer with Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, namely says this about data collection on hate crimes by the police state,

 “As far as data collection is concerned, one of the biggest issues … is always that the information is falling into the stalker state, [which is] then used to trace and track and monitor and criminalize and literally stalk people in their lives.”

City Council’s reliance on policing also ignores the disproportionate violence queer and trans people experience at the hands of police. According to a 2013 report by the NYC-Anti Violence Project, trans individuals were 7x more likely to experience physical violence by police compared to cisgender individuals. And in a 2015 survey study of young LGBTQ people by the Urban Institute, “15 percent of respondents reported that simply having condoms when stopped by police was enough to justify sustained questioning, and even arrest, for prostitution-related offenses.”

By focusing on hate crimes, City Council reinvests in the criminal legal system and prison industrial complex, and allots these systems the structural power to create “meaning through punishment”–that is, reinforcing the idea that we are humanized when recognized by the State and ‘included’ by police.

GLAAD influences the passing of Ordinance 231032

Something to note about this Ordinance is its influence by major players at the national level–namely GLAAD. Justice Horn, who currently serves as Chair of the Kansas City LGBTQ+ Commission, has an extensive history of working with GLAAD: a national LGBT media advocacy organization currently working to get criminalization laws passed in various states.

This past October, GLAAD visited Kansas City to host an “activism workshop” around the time Ordinance #231032 was drafted.

Photo of GLAAD Media Institute giving a training in Kansas City on October 19th with the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City. (Ross Murray)
Alvaro Ontiveros Aguilar, member of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City. (Lana Leonard)

Following the workshop, GLAAD published an article on October 18, 2023 via their website recapping the visit–– namely focusing on the LGBTQ’s commission plans to pass a hate crime bill in Kansas City. Alvaro Ontiveros Aguilar, an attorney and member of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, was quoted in the article saying this:

“My first task on the commission has been to try and spearhead a movement to get a hate crime ordinance added on to our municipal codes. That is one of my biggest passions and largest concerns”

In 2022,  GLAAD partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on a mass surveillance effort to counter “anti-LGBTQ+ extremism and hate” by using surveillance, data-tracking and working with police. In a paragraph from their November press release, they write,

“The partnership will enhance both organizations’ abilities to track extremist activity and hate incidents, produce reports and resources to educate key stakeholders and the public about trends and developments, and alert law enforcement and community organizations to threats targeting LGBTQ+ individuals and institutions”

The ADL is known for their deep-rooted history of targeting and surveilling progressive movements, advocating for “tough-on-crime” legislation (wherein this stance often targets underrepresented communities disproportionately), and taking pro-Zionist stances, particularly in concern to Palestine. In August 2020, a large coalition of community organizations came together to create an open-letter and resource platform called “#DropTheADL,” specifically committed to communities saying “no to the Anti-Defamation League in our schools, coalitions, and movements.” 

A week after Ordinance 231032 was passed in Kansas City, GLAAD published an article on their site titled “Kansas City Council Just Enacted a Hate Crime Ordinance Which Will Help Protect LGBTQ People in their Community,” and referenced their work with the ADL to track hate crimes.

A national organization who has little to no ties to Kansas City should not be determining our future, much less doing so through (1) strategically-placed pawns like Justice Horn and (2) using policing.

Fighting Back against Criminalization in Kansas City

The decision to pass the ordinance comes in the wake of Kansas City playing host to the World Cup in 2026. Concerns regarding the treatment and safety of the LGBTQ+ community were widely expressed during the 2022 World Cup that was held in Qatar, a country with strict laws that criminalizes same sex relationships. So, on the surface, the ordinance may appear to be a progressive measure to address and mitigate hate crime, but it is also a political move being used to reflect Kansas City as a safe place for queer individuals. In a statement to KCUR, Kansas City Council member Crispin Rea said,

“As we continue to be in the spotlight both on national tv and soon internationally, with the World Cup, it is important for us to continue to reiterate and reaffirm our commitment that this is a safe and welcoming city.”

The ordinance’s reliance on punitive measures to address anti-LGBTQ+ hate not only fails to effectively combat discrimination but also risks exacerbating existing issues of systemic racism and marginalization. The prioritization of punitive enforcement over genuine community engagement and support is alarming. Aside from all else, police are unequipped to handle these complex issues, and continuing to jail people offers no protection against violence and no change to our material conditions.

It is imperative to reject such harmful measures and instead pursue restorative strategies that uphold the dignity and rights of all individuals.

The post Justice Horn gives KCPD more power by pushing City Council to get tougher on hate crimes appeared first on Kansas City Defender.