Chicago PD's Gang Database Is A Horrific Mess Compiled By Horrific Public Servants
from the when-all-you-really-want-is-a-shitlist-filled-with-minorities dept
The easiest way to control a certain percentage of the populace is to strip it of its humanity. It happens in prisons and jails every day. It happens to immigrants all the time. For the Chicago Police Department, dehumanizing the citizens they serve makes it that much easier to minimize their complaints and avoid treating them with any level of respect.
The City of Chicago’s Inspector General has released a hefty, disturbing report [PDF] on the Chicago PD’s gang database. This collection of people — all lumped together as gang members or associates — is shared with over 500 government agencies. Given this alarming fact, you’d think the CPD would be a bit more professional when compiling it. But you’d be wrong. The thing that leaps out immediately is how demeaning the database is, thanks to officers’ input.
[S]ome entries raise serious concerns about how CPD officers perceive and treat the people with whom they interact. OIG found that CPD officers entered occupations for individuals on gang arrest cards that included “SCUM BAG,” “BUM,” “CRIMINAL,” “BLACK,” “DORK,” “LOOSER [sic],” and “TURD.”
This epitome of community policing is being turned out on every governmental street corner. 500 agencies have made nearly one million inquiries of this finely-sourced database over the past decade. Whatever they were looking for was most likely black, male, and residing in certain Chicago neighborhoods. Not because that’s what these other agencies were actually searching for, but because that’s all the Chicago PD had entered into the database.
Of the 134,242 individuals designated as gang members in Gang Arrest Cards over the past 20 years, Black or African American and Latinx males comprise 91.3%.
Thirteen of the City’s 77 community areas account for over 50% of Gang Arrest Cards produced.
GIGO at scale. And with zero avenues of redress for those the officers have arbitrarily declared “gang members.”
Over 15,000 individuals designated as gang members by CPD had no specific gang membership listed and no reason provided for why the individual was listed as a gang member. Individuals designated as gang members are not notified of their designation and have no ability to appeal the designation. CPD does not regularly review, correct, or purge inaccurate gang information; those with inaccurate designations have no opportunity to clear their name and mitigate the impact of incorrect or outdated gang designations. Ultimately, CPD’s gang designations are permanent and inescapable. Once designated, an individual is listed as a gang member in CPD’s system forever.
Since the CPD certainly isn’t informing other agencies of the multiple, self-induced flaws in the data, the million searches returned highly-questionable intel these outside agencies likely believed was the result of actual investigations, rather than biased policing.
Needless to say, the gang database has done a significant amount of damage to the CPD’s reputation and its relationship with the communities it serves. Residents view the gang database as just another way for cops to target minorities and make their lives miserable. This impression isn’t wrong. The database is a confirmation bias machine, allowing cops to believe most minorities are gang members because the database says most minorities are gang members.
No one outside the CPD has the power to vet the information contained in the database and the CPD hardly seems worried about the inaccuracies it contains, much less the slurs listed as “occupations” or the fact that it’s 91% minorities. The Inspector General’s review of records noticed a ton of discrepancies, including multiple entries for the same people (thanks to clerical/paperwork errors) and individuals listed as being under the age of ten, despite other records showing them to be nearly a decade older than the gang database said they were.
The sloppy handling of data would be concerning on its own. The fact that this database tells over 500 outside government agencies a person is a gang member makes this inattention to detail horrific. The CPD is shrugging thousands of people onto a gang list with zero care for the collateral damage it’s causing.
6,233 individuals designated with multiple race classifications, and 903 individuals designated with multiple gender classifications.
21,380 individuals designated with multiple dates of birth, approximately 15.9% of the total number of individuals, and 922 individuals of the 21,380 had dates of birth that could not be determined. This includes two individuals in the Gang Arrest Cards data whose ages were listed as 6 and 7 respectively however, both individuals had multiple dates of birth listed.98
15,174 individuals with no specific gang designation, despite being listed as gang members approximately 11.3% of the total number of individuals.
15,648 individuals designated as gang members never had a reason provided by CPD for this designation in any Gang Arrest Card, approximately 11.7% of the total number of individuals. Further, 24,151 Gang Arrest Card records had no reason provided for the designation.
The IG offers a list of recommendations, but no one should hold their breath waiting for the CPD to implement them. Unsurprisingly, the IG suggests the CPD try to approach adequate competency when gathering info on suspected gang members and entering it into the system. More importantly, the IG says the CPD needs to ensure the accuracy of what it already has, purge everything that isn’t (or is outdated), and provide a way for citizens to challenge their addition to this database, which means adding a notification method.
Anyway, re: your breath:
CPD’s response and proposed measures diverge from the OIG’s recommendations in several critical ways. The Department’s response indicates that CPD will not engage with community stakeholders in the fashion that OIG recommends.
In other words, thanks for all the help, but we’ll take it from here and possibly make it even worse. There’s nothing in these reforms the CPD wants or needs, so it will slow-walk its minimal improvements while proceeding with the gang-tagging business as usual. And why should it change? The city is filled with people officers don’t consider people.