More Than 3 Years After Watchdog Warned Chicago Police Gang Databases Were ‘Deeply Flawed,’ New System Poised to Launch Despite Objections


(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Chicago Police Department officials are set to roll out a new system to track down Chicagoans they believe are gang members. The move comes more than three-and-a-half years after the city’s watchdog warned that the records were riddled with errors, ripe for abuse and disproportionately targeted by Chicago’s blacks and Latinos.

The plan is in place despite objections from the Interim Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability, which it will hold a virtual meeting at 18:30 on Monday to discuss the new draft policy that would govern the new band databasedubbed Criminal Enterprise Information System, known as CEIS.

Commission chair Anthony Driver, appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, said the department notified the commission in early October that the long-delayed new system would launch on Oct. 28.

After a meeting between commission members and department officials left Driver with more questions than answers, the commission asked for the rollout of the new system to be delayed, Driver said. Efforts to schedule further meetings were unsuccessful, and the draft of the new band database policy was posted on the department’s website on November 7.

Chicagoans have until Dec. 7 to evaluate those rules, which appear to be much the same as contained in the draft policy released in November 2021. That policy has never been finalized.

“The public has a right to be informed,” Driver said, adding that while Inspector General Deborah Witzburg’s office plans to attend Monday’s meeting, the Chicago Police Superintendent. David Brown did not respond to the commission’s invitation. “The city and the police department got it wrong the first time and many times since. We can’t afford to make mistakes again.”

Chicago Police Department spokesman Tom Ahern said department leaders conducted “an extensive review of previously collected gang data to ensure that all information entered into the CEIS is accurate, according to the new, more robust set of criteria” and did not rule out further meetings with the committee.

“It is important that this system is built on constitutional and fair policing, and that time is taken to ensure that it is aligned with the CPD’s reform efforts,” Ahern said.

That draft policy requires officials to have “specific, documented and reliable information” obtained within five years before including a person in the database. However, that policy does not require individuals listed in the database to be notified of their inclusion or informed about how to appeal their designation as a gang member in Chicago.

The draft policy would allow people to find out if they have been included in the database only by going to police headquarters, one of the five district police stations or the offices of the Chicago city secretary. Parents of teenagers included in the database can file an appeal on their behalf. The Police would have 90 days to respond.

Individuals may also be added to the database if two or more additional criteria are met, including wearing clothing with gang emblems, having a tattoo with gang insignia, or being listed as a gang member on a criminal record. criminal charge, according to the policy.

Those listed in the database must be removed after five years if they are no longer eligible for inclusion in the system, according to policy.

The Chicago City Council voted 29-18 in November 2021 to grant the Chicago Police Board the power to overrule the Chicago Police Department and remove a Chicago citizen from its gang database.

Many of the city council members who voted against that policy, supported by Lightfoot, said it was premature because the rules governing the underdeveloped system have yet to be finalized.

An April 2019 audit by former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson determined that the city’s gang databases were a “deeply flawed collection of gang data, with poor quality controls and inadequate procedural rights protections.”

About 95 percent of the at least 134,242 Chicagoans listed as gang members by the CPD were Black or Latino, Ferguson’s audit found. Individuals were entered into at least one of 18 databases when they admitted to belonging to a gang, wore or used gang emblems, tattoos, hand signals or other symbols, or were identified by an officer “with special intelligence” about gangs.

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson immediately agreed to replace the city’s gang databases after Ferguson’s audit was released, which came amid a torrent of criticism that the flawed records put Chicago citizens at risk of being deported, denied housing or rejected by employers.

But plans for a new system stalled after Lightfoot took office in May 2019 and wanted fresh overhauls. The city also faced a class action lawsuit demanding changes to how police officers used the gang database. That the lawsuit was settled in November 2020 after city officials agreed to make a number of significant changes to how the database works.

As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, the department agreed to release data on the age, race and reason for including those listed in the system as gang members, according to court documents.

The department also agreed to publish information about how many people are added to the gang database, how many people appeal that designation, and how many of those appeals are successful and denied.

By Lightfoot 2019 campaign platform promised to replace existing databases “and impose strict guidelines for the operation and maintenance of any replacement database so that it includes only information gleaned from real and credible police investigations and is regularly checked to ensure that the information remains relevant and credible “.

Lightfoot moved in July 2019 to permanently block Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency agents from accessing the database amid a wave of threats by former President Donald Trump to conduct raids in Chicago and other cities worldwide. national in an attempt to deport undocumented immigrants.

But Lightfoot has refused calls for the city to scrap the databases entirely, saying there are “legitimate” reasons the police department should maintain a roster of gang members.

Police officers will no longer fill out “group arrest” forms and submit that information as justification for adding someone to the database, according to the settlement that settles the lawsuit. Those cards contained unreliable information and were disproportionately used to label Chicago blacks and Latinos as gang members, according to Ferguson’s audit.

That data will be “locked” and no member of the department will be able to access it. If that data is accessed through the department’s Citizens and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting, or CLEAR, database, it will be flagged with a disclaimer that gang membership information had not been verified, per the agreement legal.

In March 2021, a follow-up audit by Ferguson found that the department was still using data from faulty band databases. During a July 2021 City Council committee hearing, former Deputy Chief Thomas Mills told aldermen police officers need a database listing people’s gang affiliations to prevent “retaliatory violence” and give officers the ability to “anticipate the next crime”.

Mills is now Chief of Police in suburban Broadview.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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