The court ruling has hit the Boston police gang database


The judges cited “errors in that database, including its reliance on an irregular scoring system built on undocumented inferences.”

The court ruling has hit the Boston police gang database
Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe, File

BOSTON (AP) – A federal appeals court has struck down the Boston Police Department’s controversial gang database.

A panel of judges for the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Monday in favor of Cristian Joshue Diaz Ortiz, a Salvadoran national who maintains the police, erroneously implicated him as a member of MS-13.

The judges cited “errors in that database, including its reliance on an irregular scoring system built on undocumented inferences.”

Diaz Ortiz’s lawyers said the verdict allows them to continue pursuing his asylum application.

“We hope this decision will be widely read and followed by courts and judges when confronted with gangs,” Geneva Dawn Youel, a spokeswoman for DLA Piper, a Los Angeles-based firm, said in a statement Wednesday.

Spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu did not respond to an email seeking comment, but a police spokeswoman said the department will respond later.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which had been among the civil rights groups that sued the department for publishing more information about the secret database, said the decision represents an “important study of how the Boston police gang database destroys lives” based on racist assumptions.

“Gang databases pose a serious risk to young people, especially black and Hispanic teens, who are branded as gang members for little more than wearing popular brands or even becoming a victim or target of gang violence,” the organization said in a statement.

The department has previously defended the database as a crucial tool in combating violent street gangs. Immigration attorneys and attorneys have complained about the system, which is available to federal and other law enforcement agencies, has led to the deportation of many Central American youth who have been mistakenly identified as gang members.

Last June, police adopted policy changes in response to concerns, including a process to review and clear the names of people considered “inactive” gang members, and an annual public reporting requirement.

But a number of city councilors and community groups continue to call for the immediate abolition. In March last year, police officials said there were 101 active gangs with more than 2,650 suspected members operating in and around Boston.

Monday’s 5-2 decision orders the Federal Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider the government’s efforts to deport Diaz Ortiz and reject his asylum application.

Federal immigration authorities arrested Diaz Ortiz in 2018 and moved to deport him, largely based on his inclusion as a “verified” member of MS-13 in the gang database.

Among the evidence cited in the database was that Diaz Ortiz was a student at East Boston High School, where many reputable MS-13 members attend, and that he had been observed in neighborhood parks where MS-13 members often gather. , according to the judgment.

The Court of Appeals panel said it was not convinced by the evidence, noting that the government “did not provide other evidence to substantiate the conclusions and conclusions drawn from the police reports.”

Diaz Ortiz, who entered the country illegally in 2015, had asked immigration authorities to postpone his deportation while seeking asylum based on persecution for his religious beliefs.

He maintained that he was not a gang member, but was threatened and attacked by MS-13 members for his evangelical Christian faith and pressured to join the gang, according to the verdict.

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