Consent Decree, Gang Database Front and Center at City Council
The consent decree to bring federal oversight to the Chicago Police Department has hit a bit of a stalemate.
Meanwhile, dozens of aldermen are considering making big changes to a controversial police gang database.
The parties involved met in federal court Wednesday but couldn’t come to an agreement on one nagging issue: a provision that would make police officers document every instance in which they point a firearm at someone.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argues the provision is necessary to help overhaul the Police Department’s problems with race and excessive use of force. City Inspector General Joe Ferguson, whose office will eventually have a major role enforcing the consent decree, says he would urge parties to include the gun-pointing policy.
“It is a fundamentally perspective-changing event to occur,” Ferguson said. “So to think that it has little to do with how the community perceives the police would be blinking reality. And so it’s a really important thing to fold into how it is that we monitor use of force.”
But the city and police department say it could be a deterrent to good policing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday quoted the judge who is overseeing the settlement of this case, saying that the issue is far more complicated than meets the eye.
“I think it’s important to note on this item that Judge Dow said this is a complicated issue, it’s not black and white, let’s not just decide it and be done because of speed,” Emanuel said.
Also on the public safety front is a new ordinance gaining steam that would put limitations on a controversial gang database.
The ordinance, which has been co-sponsored by all but four aldermen, would put a halt on police adding to the database until the inspector general finishes an evaluation of it.
Opponents of the database say the “gang” designation can ruin people’s lives, and that there are examples of people being mistakenly added to the list in addition to those who were in a gang decades ago who cannot get taken off. Proponents of the ordinance say immigration officials have accessed this information in order to deport people.
“For us it’s an issue of urgency, it’s an issue of how we protect our communities at a time that immigrant and communities of color are being attacked by the federal government,” said Tina Uncueta, director of the nonprofit Mi Gente. “In Chicago, we literally have a list that (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is using to target people who are supposedly guilty of crimes, and the reality is that the database is untrustworthy.”
The police department is quick to note that they are working to revise the policy. There is no centralized gang database, but about 140,000 people who have a gang distinction because cops have recorded it either during a street stop or through an arrest record. There are a few ways a person can be added to the database: they confess a gang affiliation outright, a cop notices a tattoo or gang sign, or they are involved in a gang crime.
Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs
The obscure but always controversial topic of TIFs has come front and center again. Cook County Clerk David Orr released a report this week stating that about 30 percent of a homeowner’s property tax bill goes to special TIF taxing districts, where the money is then shelled out, usually for infrastructure projects, and essentially acts as a tax on top of taxes that go to CPS, the city, etc.
“There are repercussions to the way we are spending this money,” Orr said. “It’s a bad way to spend money, and there is massive inequality.”
The mayor says he has made the TIF process more transparent and stopped the practice of spending them largely in affluent neighborhoods.
“They go into public schools, number one. Public parks, public libraries and public transportation. That’s about 83-84 percent of our funds, and those are all in our neighborhoods,” he said.
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