April 11 (UPI) -- The Chicago Police Department's database of suspected gang members is disorganized, inaccurate and raises questions about fairness, the city's inspector general said in a highly critical report released Thursday.
The 159-page study offered a number of recommendations to the city on how best to correct the database's inaccuracies, which the Office of the Inspector General said undermines "public trust and confidence in the police."
In addition to containing incomplete and at-times contradictory information, the "patchwork" of databases involves more than 500 agencies without cohesive oversight and accountability mechanisms, the report said.
"The lack of oversight and transparency for the 'gang database' contributes to a variety of negative consequences for both individuals and communities," Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson wrote.
Among the report's 30 recommendations, Ferguson calls for requiring evidence before assigning gang designations to individuals, notifying those individuals if they have been designated a gang member, establishing a process by which those individuals can appeal the designation, regularly reviewing the database for inaccuracies and creating a method for purging old or inaccurate information.
"A system that results in comparatively standardless, inaccurate and unaccountable stigmatization of residents without due process protections can only further fray the very relationships needed to achieve positive, constitutional and effective community policing," Ferguson said.
The Chicago Police Department, "the City Council and the mayor's office have to undertake holistic and comprehensive actions to enhance violence reduction efforts, and they have to include community voices in ongoing reforms."
Gun and gang violence are top concerns for Chicago's law enforcement, but the police department reported in December the city saw a drop in its murder rate for the second year in a row. In 2018, there were 550 homicides, a drop from 650 in 2017. There also was a 10 percent drop in overall crime since 2016, the year Chicago had its highest murder rate in some 20 years.
The department credited the reductions in crime to "investments in data-driven policing," better community partnerships and the use of predictive analytics.
In 2017, Chicago ranked 14th in homicides per capita among U.S. cities with populations of at least 100,000 -- but had the highest total number of murders of all cities.