Activists demand NYPD ‘gang database’ report from NYC’s investigative agency

A coalition of activists is demanding that the City’s Department of Investigation stand by its promise to release a report on the NYPD’s controversial gang database by the end of the year.

The DOI began a probe of police use of the database in 2018 and in April, Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber promised the City Council that the report would be released — at the latest — on Dec. 31.

Josmar Trujillo of the GANGS Coalition — an organization that works to knock down surveillance and profiling of minorities and immigrants as gang members — gathered with other activists outside the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD in the Financial District on Monday.

“We demand they do their job,” Trujillo said. “This is a city agency that works for the people. We need more transparency. Our coalition and our allies are dedicated to erasing the gang database, abolishing the gang database and getting rid of it because we don’t need it to achieve public safety.”

In 2018, former Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who was then chief of detectives, confirmed in testimony in front of the City Council that 99% of those in the database are people of color.

“The NYPD’s gang database requires no actual gang,” the professor said Babe Howell, a professor at the CUNY School of Law. “Its criteria is simply association, appearance, location. Less than 1% in the criminal groups database are white people. They don’t put the proud boys, the mafia.”

Howell, who has been studying gangs for over a decade, said she and others have met with the inspector general “on multiple occasions.”

“We’ve been here before. They promised it over and over again.” Howell said of the report. “This information cannot be suppressed. We need this report we need to unpack what they’re doing with the gang database.”

Shea also confirmed there are hundreds of children in the gang database, and that police use social media posts to determine gang status, an allegation he strongly rejected.

A community organizer at the Legal Aid Society said he was in graduate school when he was arrested and accused of being a gang member.

“I made it all the way to grad school and due to a gang database, I was thrown into a bunch of mess,” said Kraig Lewis. “I was categorized as one of the most violent gang members in New York. This gang database isn’t fair. Because if the police did their research, they would have known I was straight out of Catholic school.

“They would have known I was here to try to help my community. We need transparency”

DOI is “diligently working on its examination of the NYPD’s gang database and is hopeful to issue its report by the end of the year,” a spokesperson said in a statement.