The city’s watchdog has found that the Chicago Police Department has “fallen critically short” on its vow to replace and improve its gang database, which reports have described as an error-laden tool of racial discrimination, reports the Chicago Tribune. In a report released Wednesday, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson determined the department has made “minimal progress” toward a fairer and more accurate system promised in response to criticisms the watchdog made two years ago. The new report faults the police for failing to clearly establish who is in charge of the effort, lacking a timeline for completing it and giving the public potentially misleading information on the hot-button issue of who can be included in the new data collection. Meanwhile, cops have sometimes continued to use the flawed system that uses flimsy evidence such as tattoos, the word of informants, and admissions by those arrested to place people on a list of supposed gang members that, as of two years ago, included more than 134,000 names.
The audit of one element of the database, gang arrest cards, found entries for some 90 supposed gang members with birth dates that would make them more than 117 years old. More than 15,000 people in the database had no specific gang tie listed. Wednesday’s report found that the department had not fully spelled out plans for training officers on using the new system, detailed the appeals process or explained how it will manage access by outside law enforcement. Ferguson’s report indicates that Mayor Lori Lightfoot, nearly two years into her term, may yet be far from fulfilling the campaign promise she made to replace the gang database with a system strictly containing information that is “relevant and credible.”