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The 128,000 People In Chicago Police’s Gang Database Would Be Notified And Could Appeal Under New Proposal

All but four of the city's 50 aldermen signed onto Ald. Ricardo Munoz's proposal to restrict how the database is used.

The Chicago Police Headquarters at 31st and Michigan.
Howard Ludwig/DNAinfo
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CITY HALL — All but four aldermen signed on to a measure Wednesday that would restrict the Chicago Police Department’s use of a database listing tens of thousands of Chicagoans linked to gang activity.

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said he had reached an agreement with the mayor’s office for the measure to be considered by the Public Safety Committee in September, after the City Council returns from its summer recess.

Emanuel did not dismiss the measure outright, praising Munoz for “sharing” his commitment to public safety.

Aldermen Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) and Marty Quinn (13th) declined to sign on to the measure, Munoz said. Aldermen Howard Brookins (21st) and Harry Osterman (48th) were not present at Wednesday’s meeting.

Munoz announced his retirement this week, saying he will leave the council after more than 25 years in May.

Last month, a group called Erase the Database filed a lawsuit that seeks to block city officials from using the database, alleging it “is an outdated tool full of errors containing troubling information on how police target communities of color and youth.”

The coalition endorsed Munoz’s measure, which calls for no additional names to be added to the database until Inspector General Joseph Ferguson completes an audit of the database.

The database would be shut down unless “a legitimate law enforcement related purpose that outweighs the harm caused to individuals who are designated as gang members” is found by Ferguson’s audit.

Munoz’ proposal would also prohibit the city from sharing information from the database with other law enforcement agencies. In addition, the measure calls for the city to notify the nearly 128,000 people listed in the database, and set up a way for them to appeal their inclusion.

“The Chicago gang database has been extremely troubling for our communities because it disproportionately impacts Chicago’s black and Latino population with devastating consequences,” the coalition said in a statement.

Ferguson said Wednesday that his office has not yet reached a conclusion about the database.

The inspector general’s office has heard from residents of the West and South sides that the database had a significant direct and “collateral” impact on those listed.

“There is real public confusion about what the standards are, about what the trip wires are, and a great deal of public consternation about the fact that there is no ability to challenge” a listing and no notification that you have been added to the database, Ferguson said.

“We haven’t drawn any conclusions,” Ferguson said, adding that the first results of the examinations should be available before the end of the year. “What we are doing is a thoroughgoing analysis.”

Other cities have databases that help law enforcement but protect the rights of residents or use other tools entirely, Ferguson said.

“This is an area of profound concern, worry and confusion by the public,” Ferguson said.

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