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Chicago Police Gang Database 'Deeply Flawed,' Must Be Overhauled, Ald. Says

By Heather Cherone | September 22, 2017 3:39pm | Updated on September 26, 2017 11:45am
 People listed in the Chicago Police Department's gang database should be notified and given a chance to object to their inclusion, 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said.
People listed in the Chicago Police Department's gang database should be notified and given a chance to object to their inclusion, 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said.
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ENGLEWOOD — The database used by police to track those who are most likely to be involved in gun violence is "deeply flawed," said Ald. Ray Lopez, whose 15th Ward has seen some of the worst violence in recent weeks.

In an email to residents of his ward, which includes parts of Englewood and Brighton Park, Lopez said the more than 398,000 Chicagoans listed in the gang database should be allowed to challenge their inclusion on the list.

"The current system is overly cumbersome and does not help individuals who may have no idea they are on the list," Lopez said. "Just like the [Transportation Safety Adminstration's] ‘No Fly’ list, this deeply flawed system exposes us to unnecessary legal liability and accusations of violations of Chicagoans’ civil liberties. We must act quickly to address these concerns."

The police used the database to build the smaller "strategic subject list" made public earlier this year after a legal battle with the Sun-Times.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters in the spring that the list showed a small fraction of people have been driving an uptick in gun violence on the South and West sides of the city.

The public list — which was stripped of names — shows that 398,684 people who have been fingerprinted or arrested by Chicago police since 2013 are assigned a heat score of 0 to 500, with 500 being the highest risk. It includes sex, race, age group and some geographic information, plus the number of arrests and gun and drug offenses.

"We have about 1,400 individuals who score 480+ which are the highest risk to become a suspect or victim of gun violence," Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told DNAinfo in May.

The list, developed with the Illinois Institute of Technology, also has predictor indexes for being affiliated with gangs. City officials work to connect those people with outreach services, Guglielmi said.

“The tool in its current form is ineffective, inaccurate and has become a distraction for law enforcement that has resulted in incidents where people have been held by other law enforcement bodies, including [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,]” Lopez said. "The Emanuel administration must step up and lead on addressing these problems today."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the database as a crucial crime-fighting tool and rejected criticism from 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and several groups of black and Latino Chicagoans that the database violates the city's promise to protect undocumented immigrants from President Donald Trump's administration.

A 25-year-old Chicago man sued the city in July after he was detained by federal agents and ordered deported.

Luis Vicente Pedrote-Salinas said he was targeted by federal immigration agents because Chicago police had listed him in its database based on an arrest six years ago for drinking in public in an area deemed gang territory.

Four people were shot to death Sept. 15 in Lopez' ward in the latest rifle attack in what the alderman has said is a long-running battle between two gangs.

In May, police stepped up patrols around Lopez' home and office after gangs threatened the alderman for saying he was thankful that a shooting that left two dead and eight wounded claimed "no innocent lives."

Lopez worked as a skycap at Midway Airport for 12 years before being elected to the City Council in 2015.