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Chicago police ‘gang database’ illegally targets minorities, says lawsuit

Ada Marys  |  Issue: November | December 2018

In June 2018, local organizations such as Latino Union, Black Youth Project 100, Organized Communities Against Deportation, and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council united and started a class-action lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. The lawsuit states the CPD’s discretion regarding the database is unconstitutional for targeting individuals due to their race and their neighborhoods.

A big criticism of the database is the fact that gang-related crimes are often not mentioned in the arrest of individuals. The lawsuit is currently still in progress with the hope that the database will be erased. In a major city like Chicago, crime is inevitable.

However, it is increasingly becoming questionable if CPD is targeting crime or targeting black and brown communities.

The CPD Gang Database currently has an estimated 128,000 people registered. The purpose of the database is for CPD to distinguish who are the gang members in the city. However, it is terribly inaccurate. If a black or brown man is stopped by the police and he has a relative registered as a gang member, he is automatically put into the database.

As of 2018, 95.3% of the people added in the database before they turned 18 are black or latinx. Some of those individuals were registered as young as age 11.

A study by the UIC Policing in Chicago Research Group found that members of predominantly black and latinx neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago are in the database. According to the study, more than 10% of the total population in six predominantly black neighborhoods appears in the database.

Discrimination of black and brown communities is only part of the problem with the database. The lack of transparency as well as what it means to individuals’ livelihood are just a few more concerns with the CPD Gang Database.

Individuals are placed into the system for miniscule offenses and are not told they were put into the database. Additionally, the database is shared with FBI and ICE without the knowledge of the individual. This means that undocumented individuals who have been put into the database are more at risk for deportation.

Due to pressure from the community and from non-profit organizations, CPD has made some changes and will begin to notify individuals and make it possible for them to appeal when they are put into the database.

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