Abuse of Police Discretion

NYPD’s “Gang” Policing Tactics

Date Filed: 08/09/2018

The NYPD’s gang enforcement strategies are reminiscent of the unconstitutional policing practices that motivated the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) to file suit in Davis v. City of New York. Following decades of racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk policing, LDF has reason to believe the NYPD continues to rely on police practices that use race as a proxy for crime.

Disguised as “precision policing,” the NYPD executes military-style gang takedowns that target low-income communities of color across New York City. Prior to executing these mass arrests, the NYPD conducts criminal investigations relying, in part, on a secret database that designates thousands of New Yorkers as members of gangs or local street “crews” with limited due process protections. Ninety-nine percent of the individuals in the NYPD’s gang database (also known as a Criminal Group Database) are people of color.

These practices result in imprecise policing, racial profiling, and sweeping civil liberties violations that disproportionately harm communities of color. New Yorkers who are wrongly presumed to be gang members face heightened police surveillance; elevated aggression during police encounters; enhanced bail recommendations; elevated charges; and, for some, loss of housing and the threat of deportation.

Through evolving legal and community organizing efforts—including filing suit against the NYPD over the Department’s failure to accurately and completely respond to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, as well as testifying at the New York City Council hearing on the NYPD’s Gang Takedown Efforts—LDF continues to push for greater transparency and accountability regarding the NYPD’s gang policing strategy.


  • LDF Assistant Counsel Liliana Zaragoza testifies in front of the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety focused on NYPD’s gang enforcement practices and providing notice to minors included in the criminal groups database. You can watch her testimony, beginning at the 1:52:24 mark, here.
  • LDF files a FOIL request with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to learn more about how DOE defines a gang and what information it shares with the NYPD (August 9, 2018)
    • On August 8, 2019, the lawsuit for FOIL records was decided in LDF and CCR’s favor.
  • LDF and CCR filed suit against the NYPD over the Department’s failure to provide an accurate and complete response to two separate requests for information on its gang policing tactics (August 8, 2018)
  • LDF Assistant Counsel Marne Lenox provides testimony at the New York City Council oversight hearing focused on the NYPD’s gang policing practices (June 13, 2018)
  • LDF and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appeal denial of the second FOIL request with the NYPD aimed at gathering information on the due process protections for New Yorkers in the gang database (May 31, 2018)
  • LDF and CCR appeal denial of the original FOIL request with the NYPD that broadly sought information about their gang database (May 31, 2018)
  • LDF serves a FOIL request on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to get information about New Yorkers’ inclusion in any gang databases their office maintains or to which they have access (May 9, 2018) 
  • LDF and CCR file an additional FOIL request with the NYPD to gather information on the due process implications for those included in the department’s gang policing database (February 22, 2018)
  • LDF and CCR send a letter to the New York City Council requesting an oversight hearing into the NYPD’s gang policing tactics (February 5, 2018)
  • LDF and CCR file the original FOIL request with the NYPD broadly seeking information on their gang database (December 20, 2017)
  • NYPD responds to CUNY Professor Babe Howell’s FOIL request for the raw data underlying the NYPD’s gang database  (June 7, 2017) 


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