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Van Pelt introduces plan to reform use of controversial gang databases

Sen. Patricia Van PeltSPRINGFIELD – Use of controversial gang databases by police would be reformed under legislation introduced today by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt.

“My goal is to reform the use of gang databases so that we can ensure the data is accurate and can be effective in helping reduce gang-related activity while still protecting people’s rights.” Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, said. “We need to make sure people aren’t being added to the gang database when they shouldn’t be, something that has proven to be problematic for countless Chicagoans over the years.”

The legislation was crafted after experts, advocates and community members voiced their concerns at an April 20 Senate committee hearing about the Chicago Police Department’s use of gang databases and its effect on communities.

“For too long, law enforcement has operated flawed databases with little oversight and questionable reasoning for adding names to the lists,” Van Pelt said. “This legislation will provide more oversight and help protect the rights of innocent individuals who shouldn’t be on the list.”

The use of gang databases to track individuals labeled as suspected gang members has been called into question in recent months after investigative reports found that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans have been added to gang databases.

Within the demographic of young black men aged 20-29, 53,418 (up to 89% of population) are in the Chicago Police Department's gang database.

Senate Bill 275 does the following:

  • Creates rules around how local law enforcement agencies handle shared gang databases.
  • Requires the Illinois State Police to create a system of notifying people they’ve been added to a local law enforcement agency shared gang database. Requires the state police to create an appeals process so that people’s names can be removed if they’ve been added incorrectly and allows a person to petition the court if their appeal is denied by the state police.
  • Creates the Gang Database Technical Advisory Task Force, which will advise the Illinois State Police on rules, oversight, operation and implementation of this act.
  • Requires that all shared gang databases in Illinois be frozen on Jan. 1, 2019. No one can be added to the gang databases until the controlling law enforcement agency has purged all people who should not be on the list and the Illinois attorney general has certified this has been done.
  • Requires the Illinois State Police to audit all shared gang databases to certify that the people who’ve been added to them should be on them.
  • Limits gang database access to only law enforcement and their support staff, and restricts the information from being used in employer background checks or by federal immigration officials.

Sen. Patricia Van Pelt

 Senator Patricia Van Pelt

5th Legislative District

Years Served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Commerce and Economic Development; Criminal Law; Energy; Gaming; Public Health (Chairperson); State Government.

Biography: Born Nov. 12, 1957, in Chicago. Bachelor’s degree, Roosevelt University (1996); master’s degree, Spertus Institute (1996); doctorate, Capella University (2009); earned her CPA. Currently CEO of TARGET Area Development Corp. She has one child.