By: Alice Speri
Source: The Intercept
In two presentations released to legal groups and obtained by The Intercept, the department defines a gang as “a group of persons with a formal or informal structure that includes designated leaders and members, that engage in or are suspected to engage in unlawful conduct.”
“That definition, to me, is incredibly problematic,” said Marne Lenox, an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups behind that records request. “They’re not even talking necessarily about a group of individuals who have already been found to have engaged in particular conduct. They’re talking about a group of people who may not have actually done anything criminal.”
“The police are essentially criminalizing friendships,” Lenox said. “And really, we’re talking about kids. We’re talking about kids who attend school together, kids who grew up in the same neighborhood, who play basketball together, who communicate with their friends on social media.”
In other slides, the NYPD lists colors associated with major gangs: black, gold, yellow, red, purple, green, blue, white, brown, khaki, gray, orange, and lime green. “I don’t think there’s a single color that exists on the color spectrum that would not fit into one of those potential gangs,” said Lenox.
Legal Aid also launched a website to help New Yorkers file public records requests to learn whether they are listed in the database. Separately, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Constitutional Rights also filed an administrative appeal after the NYPD rejected the bulk of two requests seeking information on safeguards to the constitutional rights of individuals included in the database.
“The NYPD’s gang takedowns are the functional equivalent of the department’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policing tactic, and they’re regularly criminalizing innocuous behavior, much like stop-and-frisk policing used to do,” echoed Lenox. “None of this is to say that stop and frisk is over; but to the extent that the NYPD is touting the extraordinary decline in the number of people who are stopped by police, it’s incredibly interesting that as those stops decrease, the number of people identified as gang members increases dramatically.”
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