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Chicago: Community Commission Stops Implementation of Gang Database

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Chicago, IL – 60 people observed the latest meeting of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), January 26 at Olive Harvey College. The agenda included a proposed policy stopping the Chicago Police Department from creating a new gang database; selecting members for the Non-citizens Advisory Council established by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance; and setting goals for the Chicago PD, the Police Board, and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

A dozen Police District Council candidates were in attendance. Two, Cherli Montgomery from the 7th District and Eric Russell from the 6th, spoke in the public comments section of the meeting.

“This day is historic because someone voted early for District Councils today,” Russell exclaimed. “The District Council elections were not promoted by the city or the police department. We got here because of the will of the people.”

Commissioner Oswaldo Gomez introduced the nominees to the Non-citizens Advisory Council, whose purpose is to represent immigrant communities who are targeted by police violence but would otherwise be excluded from the electoral process. The nominees are Glo Choi, Ariana Correa and Mayra Gomez Santana.

CCPSA President Anthony Driver spoke on the Chicago police department’s attempts to relaunch the gang database, a tool which has been used to harass Black and brown people based on dubious or outright false claims of gang affiliation. Chicago PD announced the new gang database as a special order to dodge the authority of the CCPSA, which has the power to approve or deny general orders. All previous gang databases have been general orders.

“The gang database is a racist policy. My father is in it and he’s never been in a gang a day in his life,” Driver stated after telling his experience of how his father was more responsive than the police after Driver was robbed at gunpoint. 

“It’s disgusting that we’ve spent four months debating a policy that nobody wants in the first place,” Driver continued, before introducing a new policy mandating that any attempt to implement a system for tracking organized crime must be reviewed by the CCPSA. The policy was unanimously adopted by the commission.

The bulk of the meeting was spent announcing the goals set for the Chicago PD, Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and the Police Board. The goals for COPA are focused on increased hiring, more community outreach and more efficient investigations into police crimes. The Police Board goals include better documentation and more public meetings, and the goals for the police department include greater transparency and consent decree compliance. The goals will be released in full before the next CCPSA meeting in February.

COPA Chief Andrea Kersten was present at the meeting and accepted the goals set for her department. Police Board President Ghian Foreman sent a statement to express commitment to the goals as well. 

Attendees were fully expecting to come into the meeting without an agreement from the police department, and Commissioners Cliff Nellis and Beth Brown explained that the police department repeatedly disputed the authority of the CCPSA to set its goals. However, the department ultimately ended up agreeing to adopt the goals on the morning of the CCPSA meeting.

Police Superintendent David Brown claimed to be in full compliance with the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (EPCS) ordinance and blamed the resistance to the goals, which the Chicago Police Department is mandated by ECPS to follow, on the city’s Law Department.

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” shouted Eric Russell, before walking out of the meeting.

The Chicago Police and the Law Departments’ resistance to the goals set by the CCPSA is another example of the ruling class in Chicago fighting against democratic control of the police, and a preview of the challenges the CCPSA and District Councils will face in trying to hold the police accountable. Overcoming these challenges will require the consistent participation of the masses of Chicago’s working and oppressed people. 

The next CCPSA meeting is on Thursday, February 23, less than a week ahead of the District Council elections on February 28.


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