Law enforcement officers are the primary and initial point of contact for many victims of hate crime. It is the police officer that responds to, and interacts with, the victim first. In terms of recording hate crimes, it is critical for police officers to:
In some OSCE states, hate-motivated violence and vandalism is not properly investigated and often, due to a lack of knowledge and experience in the investigation of hate crimes, law enforcement authorities often wrongly identify such acts as "hooliganism".
As concluded in the ODIHR's report entitled: Combating Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region: An Overview of Statistics, Legislation, and National Initiatives, training for law enforcement officials and clear guidelines regarding the most effective and appropriate way to respond to bias-motivated crime can greatly increase positive interaction between police and victims, and encourage reporting by victims of hate crime.
Suggestions for improved reporting include training for front-line officers, the implementation of outreach programmes to improve police-community relations, and training in providing referrals for victim assistance and protection.
In 2005, the ODIHR launched its Law Enforcement Officer Programme on Combating Hate Crime. First piloted in Spain and Hungary, the programme has recently been extended to Croatia and France.