Chicago, IL – The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted to permanently destroy the county’s gang database, and set up legal barriers to make sure it cannot be restarted.
The Regional Gang Intelligence Database has been a contentious resource for Chicago-area law enforcement.
In January, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office announced it had “terminated” the database after no other law enforcement agency in the region was willing to run and maintain it, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s chief policy adviser, Cara Smith, said the database was no longer connected to the system and had been stored in a secure location.
Smith said the gang database will be destroyed after the Cook County Local Records Commission voted to have it destroyed. That could happen within a year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The ordinance that was approved on Feb. 21 goes into effect immediately. The mandate said that the sheriff’s department would be charged with enacting “the final destruction” of the crime-fighting too.
It also prohibited the Cook County sheriff from maintaining, re-creating, or sharing the kind of information collected for the database, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Democratic Commissioner Alma Anaya said the destruction of the gang database was not enough.
“We needed it in writing,” Anaya said. “I think that the decommissioning that [Sheriff Tom Dart] pushed for was a great first step, but we still needed all of these other steps and all of these assurances that the community groups really wanted.”
She said she planned to hold a public hearing within 90 days that would allow development of a long-term plan.
There are also concerns about how people who were on the previous database list can find out if their names were on it and how it was used, now that it has been destroyed, Anaya’s policy director Victoria Moreno told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The database contained 25,000 names of people suspected of being affiliated with more than 400 gangs and gang factions, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Current Cook County Board President and mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle had made the gang database a major plank of her platform, and vowed to destroy it.
She said she planned to get rid of the city’s gang database because it is made up of mostly people of color, and claimed there was “no criteria for how to get on it and many don’t know if they’re on it and there’s no way to get off of it.”
“It’s part of the culpability of the Police Department,” Preckwinkle said. “People don’t know how they got there and it’s used to damage their lives. That’s a real challenge to police-community relations.”