New report takes anti-gang initiative 'Operation Crew Cut' to task

Stephon Johnson | 12/12/2019, 10:13 a.m.
During New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term the New York Police Department launched an initiative to take ...
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD Nayaba Arinde photo

The NYPD proclaimed that it's not enough for a person to be in a gang location or wear gang colors to be included in the database. Officials said the department uses oversight mechanisms backed up by evidence to ensure a person belongs on that list.

"Currently, only a precinct field intelligence officer, a gang detective, or an investigator in the Social Media Analysis and Research Team may recommend that a person be entered into the database," continued McRorie. "This is a formal recommendation requiring a written narrative and supporting documentation that justify such individual’s inclusion. This recommendation is reviewed by a supervisor in the Gang Squad who will either approve or reject the recommendation, or request additional analysis by the Gang Analysis Section before making a decision."

The Department has created three avenues to exit the database, reviewing each person every three years, and on their 23rd and 28th birthdays to determine if their actions and records still warrant their inclusion in the database. These safeguards are robust. In the last four years, we have removed over 3,700 entries from the database using these exit ramps. Once a person is removed from the database, the fact that they once were affiliated with a gang is permanently hidden from the database.

In 2014, the NYPD collaborated with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to engage in a large gang raid in the Manhattanville and Grant Houses, as well as surrounding buildings, in West Harlem. The operation occurred before dawn local media outlets were alerted to the raid before hand which lead the media to assume everyone in handcuffs were gang members. In the raid, 103 Black and Latinx young people were apprehended. It lead to two indictments. Some of the parents of those arrested held a protest outside of the Harlem State Office Building. One mother told Trujillo and Vitale how police crashed into her house and arrested her son.

“They came to my house, raided my house and then they assaulted my son,” she told them. “They kicked him in the scrotum – when he was handcuffed. And he’s already sick. Just came out the hospital, they raided my house the next day on June 4th and they kicked him in the scrotum when he was down.”

New York elected officials, however, used their voice to push for an investigation. In a letter directed to the NYPD Inspector General, elected officials, including New York State Senators Jessica Ramos and Zellnor Myrie and New York State Assembly Members Rom Kim and Catalina Cruz, called for a “thorough investigation” related to the police’s social media surveillance, digital data mining and information-sharing with federal agencies.

“As you may know, thousands of people have been catalogued as gang members within this secretive database – almost all of them are people of color,” the letter states. “I am requesting that your office provide a thorough investigation of the police department’s tactics.”

Under then police chief, and current policer commissioner Dermot Shea’s watch, the NYPD expanded its gang database program to include thousands of Black and Latinx people while simultaneously collecting their DNA (even for those not charged with a crime).