The New York Police Department gang database violates the civil rights of Black and Hispanic young people much like the department’s much-maligned “stop and frisk” policy, says a group's new report the New York Daily News reports. The gang database, which the NYPD’s own inspector general had faulted, “typecast minority youths as gang members without evidence, putting them at risk of false arrest and wrongful deportation,” said “Guilt by Association” from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP). The report comes a few days after the NAACP filed a new lawsuit against the police department seeking release of more information about its gang database that it withheld during a prior Freedom of Information Law suit.
The STOP report’s deep dive into gang database procedures and past reports on the issue shows that police are quick to add names to the database, but slow to remove them, even if all the person did was wish a known gang member a happy birthday on social media. “Being outside late and wearing the wrong colors is also a problem. If a person lives in the same public housing complex as accused gang members, the NYPD may say they frequent a ‘known criminal group location’ (strike one) while wearing gang colors (strike two), which is enough for officers to add them to the database,” the report notes. “(The) NYPD can also add individuals to the database based on two ‘independent reliable sources,’ but officers decide who’s independent and reliable, and no one checks their judgment.” What the police call the Criminal Group Database contained about 16,000 names as of April. That’s down from about 34,000 names in 2014, when the NYPD said it began reviewing each entry to see if they warranted inclusion.