Chicago Police Department officials are looking to bring back a system that would track Chicagoans they believe to be members of gangs.
But it’s not without controversy and pushback.
In 2019, the city’s former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson criticized the CPD’s last gang database for being riddled with errors and for disproportionately targeting Black and Latino Chicagoans.
“I believe that the database should go away,” said Artinese Myrick, Lead Chicago Organizer at Live Free Chicago. “I don’t believe it actually shows efficacy in terms of reducing crime, preventing violence or actually keeping communities safe.”
Databases and data collection are widely used by police departments, according to Geneva Brown, teaching professor at DePaul University’s Department of Criminology.
“We have multiple databases here in Illinois; however, those are for people who are guilty,” Brown said. “Even people in databases who have been found to be wrongfully convicted are having a hard time getting their names out of the database, so I’m just curious as to what the nexus is between gathering the data for the gang database and also how this will reduce crime.”
CPD has said the new system will purge inactive profiles from the list, tightens up how a person is deemed gang-affiliated and offers a way for people to appeal their inclusion on the list.
In a statement to WTTW first reported on Nov. 25, Chicago Police Department spokesperson Tom Ahern said leaders of the department conducted “extensive vetting of previously collected gang data to ensure all information being inputted into the CEIS is accurate, according to the new, more robust set of criteria.”
These new protocols aren’t enough to justify having a gang database, according to Chico Tillmon, executive director of READI Chicago.
“When you think about what our city is going through, we need something that will allow us to address the root causes of violence and the root causes of crime in our communities,” Tillmon said.
Public comment for CPD’s gang database system draft policy will close Dec. 7. You can find that here.