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.

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