Imagine a city where we know who all the criminals are and who they interact with…
Advocates call to abolish NYPD’s ‘gang database’ that targets Black, Brown youth, Final Call, May 16, 2023
NEW YORK—Advocates recently promoted legislation to clear a controversial New York Police Department of Investigation (DOI) database that they argue keeps tabs on predominately Black and Brown residents in New York.
The G.A.N.G.S. coalition (Grassroots Advocates for Neighborhood Groups and Solutions coalition) gathered at a recent news conference to call for abolishing the database used to unfairly collect information on youth in New York City, and to prohibit any such information from being gathered in the future. Members of the coalition consisted of lawyers from the Legal Aid Society, Legal Defense Fund, Immigrant Defense Fund, Red Hook Initiative, and other counsel and activists.
Iesha Sekou, a Harlem resident, Street Corner Resources founder and activist, summarized that Black and Latino youth being targeted is a violation of their rights. “It is impacting not only for our kids to get jobs, starting careers, but also training, housing, and getting into colleges, because when they do a background check these names are displayed in the gang database, and that’s why it should be cleared. This gang database puts predominately Black and Latino men at a disadvantage to get work or to sustain themselves,” she said. Of the approximately 16,000 people registered in the database, 11,221 are Black and 4,729 are Latino.
Intro Bill 360-2022, sponsored by 21 City Council members, is a local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to abolishing the criminal group database and prohibiting the establishment of a successor database.
This bill would abolish the police department’s Criminal Group Database and prohibit the establishment of a successor database with the same or substantially similar features. Pending the ultimate destruction of records in the database, no employee of the city would be permitted to access the Criminal Group Database for law enforcement purposes.
The Inspector General for the Police Department would be required to notify persons named in the database and provide additional information regarding how persons may submit requests for records contained in the database, pursuant to the State Freedom of Information Law, prior to the destruction of such records.
Violations would be enforced by the Inspector General for the Police Department and punishable by civil penalties. In addition, persons aggrieved by a violation would have a private right of action to seek damages and other relief.
Legal Defense Fund advocates in a news release issued on April 18, 2023, stated, “The report identifies and publicizes a number of dangerous and alarming NYPD practices and failures, some of them long known by community advocates and residents, including:
• Members of the public have been added to the database as ‘known associates of gang members’ merely due to being friends with an alleged gang member on a social media platform or wishing them “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. Similarly, the NYPD treats being ‘frequent(ly) present in a known criminal group location’ as a criterion for entry into the database when the known criminal group location was merely a person’s home in a public housing complex.
• There were instances where a single NYPD staff person served as the reporting officer, reviewing supervisor, and endorser, resulting in little oversight of an individual’s addition to the database.
• The database, 99 percent of which is comprised of Black and Latino New Yorkers, is rife with stark racial disparities.
• Members of the public have historically been unable to find out whether they are part of the database, as the NYPD has routinely denied their Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests and appeals.
• Individuals were placed on the database based on their sealed arrest records, which is prohibited by state law.
• Parents and guardians of minors were not notified if their children were placed on the database.”
In response to the release of the DOI’s report, Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Assistant Counsel Kevin E. Jason issued a statement. “The Department of Investigation’s report identifies several ways in which the NYPD fails and oppresses New Yorkers by secretly surveilling them, but it reaches the wrong conclusion.
The NYPD’s secret surveillance database disproportionately targets Black and Brown New Yorkers, and the report’s recommendation to make the database a little less secretive and inconsistent ignores the risks of racial profiling, police harassment increased and elevated law enforcement stops, and possible police violence that individuals may endure after they are labeled as being affiliated with a gang,” the statement noted. “The truth is simple: the NYPD must abolish this database. This heightened, racialized surveillance breeds significant distrust in Black and Brown communities and is antithetical to true public safety.”
Ms. Sekou has long called for the abolishing of the gang database since finding out the way it was established several years ago.
11,221+4,729=15,950 (out of 16,000)… 99.6% of the NYC gang database is non-white.
Rights? When we realize the futility of individual rights and realize the importance of collective responsibility, we’ll understand why every one of these 15,950 non-white gang members should be arrested, to make New York City safe for law-abiding people.