The Legal Aid Society and several elected officials rallied Monday outside the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD to demand the release of a report on a controversial database — but the NYPD feels the cause is misguided.
The NYPD’s Criminal Group Database lists about 18,000 individuals who law enforcement officials believe have ties to a gang or a gang. It is considered a critical tool that helps police identify and prevent trigger pullers from unleashing a barrage of bullets into communities.
However, the Legal Aid Society and the GANGS Coalition claim that the crime index is filled primarily with black and brown New Yorkers, making it an instrument of injustice.
“What we want to do today is to send a clear message. Earlier this year at a city council hearing, the Department of Investigation Commissioner said that this report would be released this year. It is mid-November, and we need this report released as soon as possible. It’s been 5 1/2 years. We want to tell them to release the report so we can work to clear it,” said Josmar Trujillo of the GANGS coalition.
According to protesters, investigations into the database already began in 2018 by the Department of Investigation following an audit the same year. The findings were said to be released before the end of 2022, but with less than two months until 2023, those interested in the results are asking what is holding up the release.
In addition to calling for its disclosure, speakers also called for the database to be abolished.
However, the NYPD responded to the claim by calling it “misleading.”
According to an NYPD spokesperson, the NYPD’s Criminal Squad database is necessary to ensure that law enforcement can understand the full extent of a gang and the crimes they have committed. The police believe that if this database is not maintained, the lives of New Yorkers could be in danger.
“Calls to abolish the NYPD’s Criminal Squad database are misguided. An unfortunate pattern emerges every year with shootings in New York City and that is that a significant portion of those shootings have a connection to gang activity where either the shooter or the victim is a member of a gang. To combat gang violence effectively, the police must understand the size of these criminal groups, their scope, who their members are and the crimes they have committed. That is what the database provides and it would be irresponsible for the NYPD not to understand these groups,” according to an NYPD spokesperson in a statement.
Additionally, the NYPD underscored that the database is not only used to solve violent, gang-related crimes, shootings and murders, but also provides possible insight into what gang-related retaliation might be.
“Not only does the department use the database to solve violent crimes such as gang-related shootings and murders, but the information in the database has also proven to be critical to preventing gang-related retaliation, thereby enabling the NYPD, neighborhood-based groups and violence interrupters to prevent retaliatory shootings,” an NYPD spokesperson said.
According to the police department, there are numerous rules that must be met for the NYPD’s Criminal Group Database, which includes “strict and transparent set of rules and criteria, multiple levels of review, and subject to audits to remove individuals who are no longer active . in gang activities.”
The NYPD fears that if investigators are prevented from accessing this critical information, it will be detrimental to the communities most affected by the shootings and killings of young people on their streets.