County gang database that includes affiliations of jail inmates to be destroyed

County gang database that includes affiliations of jail inmates to be destroyed
Cook County Jail

Although five times smaller than the robust Chicago police gang database, the Cook County database might be slightly more accurate, some argue, but it’s still riddled with errors and lack of due process, and the Cook County Board is moving to dismantle it altogether.

After Sheriff Tom Dart decommissioned the Regional Gang Intelligence Database (RGID) in January because it was unsustainable, Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, D-Chicago, and a coalition of community organizations maintained that guidelines needed to be set for its destruction and to avoid further data sharing.

Currently, authorities from 371 different agencies in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin can obtain or add information to the database, according to ProPublica.

“We are committed to eliminating the police practice of designating, tracking, and sharing information pertaining to individuals suspected of gang affiliation… the existence and use of the county and city gang databases enables racial profiling and surveillance, causes devastating harm to our communities, and violates basic constitutional rights,” the coalition said in a statement.

The RGID contains at least 25,000 names, including the personal information of 400 people who are deceased and people from 32 states outside Illinois. At least 81% of individuals listed are people of color (51% Black and 30% Latinx), according to the research.

It is probable that detainees who openly self-identified as gang affiliated during the intake process at Cook County Jail—an accepted practice to prevent assigning inmates to a cell with a gang rivalcould find that information in the RGID. About 400 gang factions are listed.

As with the Chicago Police Department gang database, the RGIB does not notify individuals when they are added to the gang list, they cannot appeal their inclusion, and their designation cannot be removed.

The ordinance institutes a public process on the usage of the database, “paving the way towards transparency for local law enforcement and facilitating further understanding on how other law enforcement and non-police agencies may have used the data,” said Anaya’s policy director Victoria Moreno.

Through public hearings and an audit by the county’s Office of the Independent Inspector General, Patrick Blanchard, the coalition seeks to reform the gang intelligence system.

The Cook County Local Records Commission must approve its destruction.

Leave a comment