Policing Hatered explores the interaction of race and law enforcement in the controversial area of hate crime. Although the nation's attention has been focused on high profile hate crimes like the dragging death of James Byrd and the murder of Matthew Shepard, thousands of individuals each year are attacked because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. In hate crimes, stereotypes about criminal roles are often reversed: most of the accused tend to be white, while most of the victims are not.
Policing Hatred is an ethnographic study of how hate crime law works in practice, from the perspective of those enforcing it. It examines the way the police handle bias crimes, and the power that members of law enforcement have to influence the social environment by determining whether a crime will be charged as a bias crime.
Bell includes in her work the experiences of detectives who are women, Black, Latino, and Asian American, exploring the impact of the racial identity of both the hate crime victim and the officers' handling of bias crimes. Policing Hatred addresses enforcers' treatment of defendants' First Amendment rights and debates the merits of "special" treatment for hate crimes. Ultimately Bell argues for the importance of having the police diligently address even low level offenses such as vandalism given their devastating cumulative effects on society.