CHICAGO — Chicagoans have until Saturday to weigh in on the Chicago Police Department’s proposal to create a new database to track gang members.
CPD announced the change after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found the database disproportionately included black and Latino Chicagoans and was so poorly managed it “undermines public confidence in the department’s legitimacy and effectiveness in the service of its public safety mission.”
While CPD officials said the new system will include “updated and vetted” information and provide an opportunity for individuals listed to be notified and allowed to appeal their designation, Ferguson said those changes were not sufficient.
Ferguson’s 158-page report on the Chicago Police Department’s use of 18 different methods to track members of Chicago’s gangs in the past 10 years found officials were “not able to definitively account for all such information in its possession and control.”
“The coupling of a lack of controls with the absence of procedural fairness protections inhibits the department’s ability to assure the accuracy of its information, and potentially undermines public confidence in the department’s legitimacy and effectiveness in the service of its public safety mission,” the audit concluded.
Eighty-eight percent of those designations were made during street stops on the South and West Side after the person under arrest said they belonged to a gang, according to the report.
Overwhelming number of black and Latino Chicagoans listed in the database is not evidence of racism by department officials, Ferguson said.
However, “it does raise substantial questions that need to be asked,” Ferguson said during a news conference at City Hall when the report was released.
Ferguson said it was a “good question” whether the police department should even operate a database.
“The department’s lax approach to labeling people as gang members, without caring about the consequences, leads to further criminalization, control, and oppression of people of color in Chicago,” said Karen Sheley, the director of the ACLU of Illinois’ Police Practices Project. “The City will have a lot of work to do in cleaning up its act on this database.”