Audit Confirms Over 99% Of New Yorkers Tracked by NYPD Gang Database Are Still Black or Brown
Tandy Lau, Amsterdam News, April 27, 2023
The NYPD’s criminal group database—better known as the gang database—remains 99% Black and brown, according to the long-awaited Office of the Investigator General (OIG-NYPD) report on the controversial registry. The findings match a June 2018 testimony by then-Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea. Half a decade later, the numbers look eerily familiar.
Of the roughly 16,000 people registered during the investigation, 11,221 are Black. Another 4,729 are categorized as Hispanic. The remaining 1% of database entrants identify as either white or Asian. That’s fewer than 200 people, combined.
“The gang database is a backdoor way for the NYPD to criminalize Black and brown communities with zero due process or transparency,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso by text message. “99% of the names that have been submitted to this database are Black and Latino New Yorkers, and it is nearly impossible for individuals to determine if their name is on the list, why it was added, or how they can be removed.
“Ensnaring innocent people in the gang database undermines trust in law enforcement and public safety in our communities. The question as to whether we should get rid of the database is asked and answered: the list has got to go. Now.”
Reynoso introduced legislation banning the gang database in 2021 while serving on the City Council. His former colleagues proposed Intro 360 last year, which will abolish the registry if passed.
Entrants usually learn of their inclusion as a result of public or Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests filed on their behalf by the Legal Aid Society. Supervising attorney Anthony Posada told the Amsterdam News the report confirms the lack of formalized process for the inclusion of New Yorkers as young as age 11.
The report cracks open the NYPD’s murky methodology for what qualifies someone being added to the database. The department frequently relies on self-admissions, but New Yorkers aren’t telling on themselves. Instead, the OIG-NYPD found that posting “gang-related” emojis or photos is often sufficient evidence for inclusion.
White people make up just .6% of the gang database, despite federal officials identifying white supremacists as the “greatest domestic threat” to the U.S. in 2021.
“It is not something that is producing public safety, which is what is mentioned to justify its existence,” Posada said of the database. “Rather, it is being used as a weapon to criminalize [and continue] this narrative that Black and brown people are criminal and who they associate with makes them guilty. We don’t see that same approach applied to students at fraternities.
“They have their own codes, they have their own signs. They fit all the criteria that the NYPD itself is using to label people as gang members.”