Gang Database HearingAustinTalks - April 26, 2018 | original article

By Ian Karbal

After being notified that her 17-year-old son was wanted for questioning by police, Carolina Gaete, a community organizer and activist on the West Side, brought the teen to the 10th District for what she thought would be a quick interview.

Gaete said her son, who had no criminal record and no warrant for his arrest, was held for a week in June 2016 on charges of dispatching a weapon and aggravated felony assault.

“I felt like my son was kidnapped,” Gaete said. “My son has been a restorative justice practitioner, and at 16 started reiki … My son is very peaceful.”

After proving her son’s innocence, Gaete said she submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to discover why a photo pulled from her son’s Facebook profile was used in a line-up presented to the witness who asserted his guilt.

That’s when Gaete discovered her son was listed in the Chicago Police Department’s so-called gang database as a member of the Two-Six gang. Gaete’s son wound up in the database after being reported tardy at his school, which was in Two-Six territory, by CPD officers at the school, she said.

Gaete shared her testimonial earlier this month with members of the Illinois Senate Committee on Public Health, which held a hearing April 19th at Malcolm X College. It was hosted by Sen. Patricia Van Pelt.

Van Pelt and Sen. Mattie Hunter heard testimonial from legal experts and activists, and have plans to introduce legislation within the year to reform the way police collect data.

The database is “very discriminatory,” Van Pelt said. “This is tearing at the fabric of the community.”

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Category: Latest

Senator Patricia Van Pelt speaks on the Senate floorSPRINGFIELD – Minors arrested for certain crimes would have greater protections during police interrogations under legislation sponsored by Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), which advanced out of the Senate Criminal Law Committee Tuesday night.

“According to the Juvenile Justice Initiative, nearly 80 percent of minors don’t understand the Miranda warnings, with the least understood warning being the right to an attorney,” Van Pelt said. “We must reform our interrogation laws and protect the rights of minors.”

Senate Bill 1265 requires that any person under the age of 18 who is charged with murder or sex offenses have an attorney present during all interrogations.

In 2016, Van Pelt championed the legislation that extended these rights to minors under the age of 15 who are charged with murder or sex offenses. That law took effect last year. While Senate Bill 2370 was a victory for juvenile justice, Van Pelt said she believes we must do more to protect youth.

“Sixty-two percent of minors believe they can be penalized by a judge for remaining silent during interrogations. This is unacceptable,” Van Pelt said. “When citizens don’t understand their rights, injustice is served.”

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Category: Press Releases

SPRINGFIELD – Chicago Police Department officials opted last minute not to send a representative to today’s Senate Public Health Committee hearing on CPD’s collection and use of information in the department’s gang databases.

“I’m very disappointed about CPD’s last-minute decision not to testify at today’s hearing,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago, chair of the Senate Public Health Committee).  “There’s no shortage of questions and criticisms on how the CPD collects and uses the information in its gang databases, but CPD officials have continued to claim the databases are valuable tools. Today was their chance to address the critics and make their case for the database and they chose not to show up.”

The use of gang databases to track individuals labeled as suspected gang members has been called into question in recent months. More than 128,000 people are in the department’s gang database, 95 percent of whom are people of color.

Chicago Police Department officials notified the committee just hours before the hearing that they were no longer going to send a representative to answer questions because of legal reasons.

“The stories we heard today from activists and experts raise major concerns and even more questions about CPD’s gang databases,” Van Pelt said. “I’m calling for a moratorium on the use of gang databases until we get answers from CPD.”

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Children and Family Justice Center and the University of Illinois-Chicago, as well as concerned community members and activists, testified at Friday’s hearing.

Van Pelt plans to introduce legislation aimed at reforming the use of gang databases.

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Category: Press Releases

Senator Patricia Van Pelt speaks during a committee hearingSPRINGFIELD – Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) issued the following statement in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s annual budget address:

“For the fourth year in a row, Governor Rauner introduced a plan to devastate Illinois’ most vulnerable residents by slashing programs that are necessary to end the cycle of poverty and help low-income families succeed. His cuts to After School Matters and Teen Reach would be dangerous for young people who might otherwise be on the streets.

“Rauner has touted his work on criminal justice reform, but his cuts to important human service programs show that he’s more interested in talking about criminal justice reform than making the necessary investments in our communities that would make a real difference in the long run.”

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Category: Press Releases
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