A Closer Look At Chicago Police’s Gang Database

A Closer Look At Chicago Police’s Gang Database

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Some experts say there are potential problems with how the Chicago Police Department tracks suspected gang members.

In a lawsuit filed this week against the city, lawyers claimed the so-called gang database is unfair and ineffective.

Department directives state that officers are supposed to look at things like tattoos, clothing and hand signals to determine if someone is a gang. If so, the officer should record that information.

Loyola University criminologist Art Lurigio said that is “critical intelligence” for cops.

“If the police were failing to do that, they’re failing to do their job,” Lurigio said.

University of Chicago law Professor Aziz Huq added that there is nothing illegal about police compiling a list of suspected gang members. But he sees a potential constitutional violation if the database is actually used for policing.

“It’s an open question of law whether inclusion in a gang database is a lawful basis for a street stop,” Huq said. “The idea that police can treat you as suspicious because police believe you are suspicious, that just seems circular to me. There is no independent corroboration.”