Cook County Commissioner Anaya Releases Statement on Regional Gang Database

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

On Tuesday, the Cook County Board of Commissioners heard from the public and various subject matter experts on the need to establish due process and accountability in regards to the Regional Gang Intelligence Database (RGID). Given that RGID was decommissioned by the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year without input from Commissioners or the public, one of the goals of this hearing is to understand why. However, with the Sheriff’s Office being absent from the hearing, many questions were left unanswered. The speakers highlighted that issues with transparency and discrimination remain. Despite Commissioners having been told that the RGID has followed best practices, we now know that the Cook County Sheriff was the top submitter of queries for the Chicago’s “gang database” system. Several of the statements cause for new concerns:

Public Defender Amy Campanelli stated that gang affiliations have a direct impact on bond and plea negotiations and create a bias and dangerous assumption that individuals must be guilty even though individuals on this list may have never committed a crime. She reminded the Board that the ordinance approved in February does not prohibit the establishment of an entirely new database and further stated that locking RGID away in a safe is not solving the issue.

Dr. Andy Clarno of the Policing in Chicago Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago highlighted several findings from Freedom of Information Act requests to the Sheriff’s Office that reveal an eagerness from external law enforcement agencies in acquiring Excel copies of RGID and communication with federal networks such as the RISS Gang Regional Information Sharing Systems, all while announcements of its decommission were taken place.

Sheila Bedi from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University stated that while there are many studies illustrating the negative and potentially unconstitutional impacts of gang database, there has been no evidence to show benefits to public safety. This practice has opened the door to further criminalization in our districts and fails to address the root causes of violence, and, as we have heard today, creates a stigma that can follow people throughout their lives.

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