ACLU of Kansas, others sue Wichita Police Department for use of Gang List

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 12:28 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Wichita Police Department for its use of a “Gang List.”

The suit was filed by the ACLU of Kansas and Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, who said the list unlawfully targeted and harmed Kansans.

“For too long, Black and Latinx Wichita community members have been surveilled, harassed and punished–without notice and without cause–because they meet arbitrary criteria that allows WPD to label them a gang member,” Sharon Brett, ACLU of Kansas legal director, said in a news release. “WPD should not be allowed to target people for their innocent, constitutionally protected activity under the guise of public safety.”

The ACLU said that people are added to the list without notice or due process, and people could be added to it by visiting certain places or associating with certain people.

The Gang List and list of places are not publicly available, and individuals can not challenge their listing or request their removal.

In an analysis done by the ACLU, 60% of people on the Gang List are Black – Black residents make up 10.9% of Wichita’s population. Another 25% of people on the list were Latinx, even though they make up 17.2% of Wichita’s population. Wichita’s population is 62.8% white, and make up 6% of the Gang List.

“Having an unverified and inaccessible Gang List speaks volumes about the racial profiling, targeting and harassment of Black and brown people in our community,” Kristen Powell and NyKia Gatson, Progeny youth leaders, said in a release. “Racial disparities are the heart of the problem in our criminal legal system, and if we continue to refuse to address lists such as the Gang List, then we are refusing to address the legalized racism in our own community.”

The lawsuit alleges that the police departments use of the list is unconstitutional, violating the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of community members. They’re asking for the use of the list to be immediately ceased and prohibit the use of the list in the future.

Some people pushing this case have extensive criminal backgrounds.

“These are individuals that may have committed other crimes in the past, but this designation is then following them for decades in the future, and these are people who have done their time and who are not involved in that, never been involved n gang life and are just trying to lead law-abiding lives,” said ACLU Kansas Legal Director Sharon Brett.

Wichita police say if teens are on the list, you can fill out an application to request getting their names off of it. Police have said in the past that they have moved some from the “Active Gang List’ to an “Inactive Gang List,” which only keeps that person’s information on file to help with future investigations. In 2017, police also sent a letter to dozens of teen’s parents to let them know that their child is on the list and also worked with them on how to get their children’s names off of the list.

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