Erase the Database

black and white drawn graphic of a lap top with a CPD hat on top, computer screen reads erase the gang database, keyboard reads stop the surveillance of black and brown chicagoans!


Erase The Gang-Database’s Statement on OIG’s Report 04/01/2021

The organizations within the campaign to abolish Chicago’s Gang Database would like to express our deep condolences to the family and loved ones of 13-year old Adam Toledo, who was murdered last week by the Chicago Police Department. For Adam, and the countless others who have lost their lives to senseless police violence, we are committed to dismantling the tools used by the state to surveil and kill us, along with movements that call for defunding and abolishing the police. 

In 2019, Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report that concluded that the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) network of gang databases “contain incomplete and contradictory data.” As a result, CPD was instructed to cease using gang arrest cards, and the Chicago City Council was called on to hold a public hearing on this report and the changes CPD was tasked with. Last week, the OIG released a report on CPD’s progress in updating their gang database systems, which names that CPD continues to use gang arrest cards and has made few of the changes they were called on to make.

The Chicago Police Department’s lack of accountability, transparency, and blatant neglect to restructure an openly flawed and ineffective system is unsurprising, yet reprehensible. CPD has made shamefully slow progress towards its own proposed changes to its gang database system, and continues to use the current database that heavily relies on racial profiling, with approximately 95% of those listed being Black or Latinx people. Not only has CPD fallen short of its own commitments, the department has blatantly tossed accountability to the side by misleading community members. According to the Follow-Up report by the Chicago Office of Inspector General, CPD withheld its most recent gang database draft policy from the public eye for almost 8 months after it was finalized, denying community members an opportunity to engage with public policy. This new withheld draft, which would broaden the “circumstances under which district law enforcement officers may enter an individual’s information,” comes after community feedback showed 86% of community comments opposed the creation of any database whatsoever.

We understand that the report findings as further evidence of what we already knew: that the gang database’s only purpose is to increase police surveillance and racial discrimination in our communities. It is unlikely that the Chicago Police Department will ever be accountable to changing a system that is rotten at the core and serves to benefit its own power. 

In light of this reality, we hold City Council accountable for failing us on the issue of public safety. A public hearing on the OIG’s first gang database report was officially requested by City Council Members in 2019, triggering the obligation of the Chair of the Public Safety Committee to hold a public hearing, as indicated in the Municipal Code. A hearing was never held. We now demand City Council Members, and specifically Alderman Chris Taliaferro, to respect their community and commitments to serve by hosting a public hearing to review the previous and most recent findings by the OIG in April. It is two years overdue; our communities deserve and demand this basic level of accountability and transparency.

Read our 1-pager breaking down the OIG Follow Up Report Here.

Read the full report here.

The System Is Guilty As Hell

“The data shows that the Chicago Gang Database is a target list of Black and Brown people who will be the victims of immigration raids, of incarceration and criminalization, and further policing” – Janae Bonsu, Black Youth Project 100

What is the Gang Database?

“Gang Database” is the name used for the maintenance of information about an individual’s suspected relationship to gangs maintained by the Chicago Police Department (PCD). This information is stored as part of the Strategic Subject List (SSL) and the Chicago Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) database.

CPD’s Gang Database is compiled using 18 separate forms, records, and systems of records, with no unified, standalone “gang database.” In 2019, the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) found evidence that CPD’s Gang Arrest Cards were of poor data quality and that there were inadequate controls on the entry of information (report). CPD shares its collection of information with over 500 external agencies, including immigration and criminal justice agencies, with no agreements with those external agencies governing access to and use of the data.

The System Cannot be Reformed

CPD’s Error-Filled Database by Danbee (Deb) Kim

Of the 500,000 Gang Arrest Cards recorded, 95% of the individuals designated as gang members were Black and Latinx, with 91.3% of all individuals being male.

graphic saying 33,000 Chicago Youth have been labeled as gang members

According to OIG’s Report:

  • 90 Gang Arrest Cards had dates of birth entered as prior to 1901, making those individuals 117 years old, 80 GAC’s listed an individual’s age as 0
  • 15,174 individuals had no specific gang designation, despite being listed as gang members
  • 15,648 individuals were designated as gang members without a reason provided
  • The CPD Gang Database has someone as young as 9 years old, and as old as 75

CPD does not provide notification to individuals that have been designated as gang members, and there is no way of contesting, repealing or denying false entry.

Being in the Gang Database Can Mean: 

[September 11, 2018] The True Input and Output of Chicago’s Gang Database by Barbara Galeano (Download)

  • Enhanced surveillance by CPD or other law enforcement
  • An effect on an individual’s bail & bond, sentencing, sanctions, probation, prison, and parole
  • Being at risk of deportation and immigration raids/obstacles to obtaining relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or U-Visas
  • Being rejected for employment opportunities
  • Being denied professional licenses, such as childcare
  • Being ineligible for bond for minor offenses
  • Being targeted by police officers for harassment


Find Out If You’re in Chicago’s Gang Database

Last updated December 2, 2019

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WARNING: This document is for informational purposes only. It does not provide legal advice.


The City of Chicago Police Department (CPD) runs a secret gang database, and has put nearly 200,000 people into it.* People in the gang database face harassment from police, immigration enforcement from ICE, enhanced criminal punishments, and barriers to housing and employment. This document shows you how to find out if you’re in the Gang Database by sending a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) to the police. All you have to do is send an email, and you can use the “click here” button below to send your email. Then, the police have to respond to your request. First, read about the risks.


    • If the police ask you for your ID, don’t send them an ID that shows your country of origin or immigration status if you are undocumented or worried about your status.
    • If you are on probation or are regularly contacted by police, you may be at greater risk for harassment and retaliation.
    • Your FOIA request is a public record, so CPD could make it public that you’ve asked about whether or not you are in the gang database.
    • If there is a warrant for your arrest, talk to a lawyer before sending this FOIA.
    • If you send the FOIA from a work/organizational email, others inside your organization might be able to see what you send and receive.

STEP 1: Send FOIA by email to CPD

Click here to send FOIA

Remember to add your name and date of birth! A copy will be sent to organizers of the Erase the Database campaign. A FOIA request can be sent by email. FOIA requires the Chicago Police to respond to your request within one or two weeks. Use the button above or copy and paste the language below; just add your name and date of birth.

Email to copy and paste



Subject: FOIA Request

My name is FULL NAME and my date of birth is DATE OF BIRTH.

I submit this Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records regarding myself held by the Chicago Police Department including a “gang designation”: an indication that I am a member of a gang, affiliated with a gang, or otherwise connected to a gang.

First, I request any records associated with the following requested search:

1. Run a search for my name and date of birth in CLEAR and/or WIRE, as well as any aliases I have provided and my date of birth.

2. Run a search with my last name and any associated IR numbers using the “Search Gang Membership/Inmate Details” search tool.

3. Share all records associated with the above searches, including but not limited to investigatory stop reports, arrest reports, gang arrest cards, gang contact cards, and electronic copies of printouts from the search.

Second, I request that CPD produce my RAP sheet/criminal history, arrest reports, contacts cards pertaining to me, and electronic printouts from any database that indicate that I am a gang member, so long as CPD can do so without my request being unduly burdensome under FOIA.

Please contact me first if you intend to charge any fee. This request is not for a commercial purpose.

STEP 2: Wait for a response

CPD must provide you a response in 5 business days (1 week), but can ask for a 1 week extension. If you haven’t gotten a response in 2 weeks, you can email them again to ask for an update.

STEP 3: Fight the denial, or review your documents

A. Fight the denial

CPD might not give you the information you asked for. Specifically, they might ask you to prove who you are or narrow your request (be more specific).

If CPD asks you to prove who you are, you can send a photo of your driver’s license or similar identification; but remember, there may be risks of sending identification documents to CPD.

If CPD asks you to narrow your request, you could respond like this:

Language for response 

I am willing to specify and narrow my request as below. I seek records regarding police contacts with me, particularly those that may include a gang designation. I believe those records may be found without being “unduly burdensome” by conducting the following search:

1. Run a search for my name and date of birth in CLEAR and/or WIRE, as well as any aliases I have provided and my date of birth.

2. Run a search with my last name and any associated IR numbers using the “Search Gang Membership/Inmate Details” search tool.

3. Share all records associated with the above searches, including but not limited to investigatory stop reports, arrest reports, gang arrest cards, gang contact cards, and electronic copies of printouts from the search.

B. Review your documents

If you get a response and it includes documents that say you are a gang member, you are in the “Gang Database” – in other words, the police have records identifying you as a gang member. You should understand the risks of being in the gang database, including harassment by police; targeted immigration enforcement by ICE, including deportation; enhanced criminal punishments; and barriers to housing and employment. See the below resources for information about these risks.

If you don’t get a response, or if you get a response that does not include documents that say you are a gang member, you might still be in the city’s gang database. The Chicago Police Department maintains at least 18 different forms, records, and systems that include gang-related data. It’s possible that you are listed as a gang member in one of these places even if the response you get doesn’t include a gang designation.

Finally, the Chicago Police Department may have your records under another name – an “alias.” You can try sending a FOIA and adding a sentence requesting a search for your aliases (for example: “My records may be associated with the following aliases: LIST ALIASES”) if you want to find out.

Need Help? Leave a voicemail on the Beyond Legal Aid helpline at (224) 307-6217 or email for support at

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