Controversial database is fraught with errors, denies due process, and thwarts public oversight.
CHICAGO, April 15, 2019—CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement supporting public hearings into Chicago’s controversial gang database.
“The City Council must immediately convene public hearings on the gang database, to examine troubling evidence of racial bias and constitutional violations that have been exposed by advocates and the city’s Inspector General. Public hearings should include a full audit of the database, and a review of any role that school resource officers may play in feeding false information into that database.
“The gang database is little more than a dumping ground of unsubstantiated allegations that leads to racial profiling and discrimination and further criminalizes our most vulnerable citizens. The youngest registered person in the database is only 9 years old—and at least fifteen are over the age of 100. Every one of these individuals has been denied even the knowledge that they’ve been labeled, with no due process to challenge this stereotype. 95% of those listed are Black or Latinx, with the West Side bearing the brunt of arrests under the dubious label. Yet the database is of little use in reducing shootings, homicides or robberies, and South and West Side residents continue to struggle under city policies that undermine both public safety and their well-being.
“It’s time for the City of Chicago to follow the example of Cook County, which has decommissioned its use of its gang database and banned ICE from County courthouses. This is an opportunity for CPS, the City Council and the mayor to lead on this issue—and for the rubber stamp Board of Education to for once take action on an issue that helps, rather than harms, our students by barring access to the database in schools or by school staff. Chicago should also abandon any plans to create a new version of this hopelessly flawed program, which puts people at risk from perils that range from from incarceration to deportation.
“Instead of investing in racist databases, the City of Chicago should invest in our neighborhoods—including our public schools. Chicago’s outgoing mayor found more than $2 billion for the Lincoln Yards and ‘the 78′ developers, offered billions in tax breaks to lure Amazon, and set the stage to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars to build a cop academy. This same city can—and must—instead find ways to fund our schools, increase learning opportunities by restoring vocational education programs, open mental health centers, expand health care, create living wage jobs and economic opportunity, and ensure that residents have safe and affordable housing in safe and affordable neighborhoods.
“That includes ensuring that every public school has social workers, counselors, school nurses, psychologists and restorative justice coordinators who can address students’ social and emotional needs and help them grow into productive, engaged adults. Our students need the rich curricula and after-school programs that put them on the path to lifelong learning. Our students need enough teachers and support staff in their classrooms to provide them with the one-on-one attention that helps them thrive both inside and outside of the classroom. Our students need to be respected as individuals with possibility and promise.
“Anything less is simply consent to continue the oppression of people of color, including Black and Brown youth, in this city.”