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!

 

The racist Chicago Gang Database has to go.

Chicago police maintain two massive gang databases, collectively labeling more than 280,000 people as “gang members.” 95% of those people listed are people of color, most being young men in their late teens and 20s, but also thousands being Black and Latinx youth and elders. CPD does not require any evidence to support a gang designation, they do not have to make an arrest, or even inform you that you’ve been placed in the database. Yet once your name has been added, you cannot be removed. CPD itself has been unable to explain how this gang database makes communities “safe,” even after investigations by the The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General’s office reported several faulty and inaccurate practices by CPD in its use of the database. Even with all that, the data compiled in the database is shared with over 500 agencies, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI.

Our People Demand:

  1. The abolition of the gang database: We do not want an “improved” database, we want to eliminate gang databases. We insist on the humanity of everyone in our communities and refuse distinctions between innocent and guilty or deserving and undeserving.
  2. Restitution: Call for reparations for individuals harmed by the database and for funding to be redirected from police toward the communities most harmed by the database.
  3. Passing the Peace Book: Create a public safety tool for our community that acts opposite to the ‘Gang Book.’ This resource sets out to stop violence across Chicago by decriminalizing our people, highlighting the ways that we can repair harm using restorative justice tactics, and stopping the violence created by racist policing without resorting to the criminal punishment system.

Sign the Petition!

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

FOIA

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

Last updated December 2, 2019

Share this page: erasethedatabase.com/FOIA

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

Introduction

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.

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

To: foia@chicagopolice.org

BCC: gdbcoalition@gmail.com

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 GDBCoalition@gmail.com.

Sources / Learn More!

http://erasethedatabase.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Tracked-Targeted-0217.pdf

http://erasethedatabase.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Expansive-and-Focused-Surveillance-June-2018_final.pdf

https://igchicago.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/OIG-CPD-Gang-Database-Review.pdf