For decades, Cicero allowed only residents to hold municipal jobs. The town, and its work force, remained overwhelmingly white. Today, Cicero’s firefighters want to get rid of the town’s remaining residency requirements and encourage African Americans living elsewhere to apply. But critics suspect another motive: White workers want the freedom to escape the industrialized western suburb and its fast-growing Latino population. Cicero firefighters are among the first to take advantage of a 1997 change to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act that gives them greater leverage in contract negotiations.
The Communist Party is a gang and Chicago public housing activist William “A.K.” Small is a gang member, according to Illinois State Police records obtained by The Chicago Reporter. The documents reveal that Small’s association with the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade is recorded in the state’s database of suspected gang members. The Brigade is a political group that advocates for public housing residents and against police abuses. Small was also identified as a gang member in a Chicago Police Department report, which may violate a consent decree restricting the city’s collection of information on political affiliations.
The controversy over how police treat suspected gang members, even those who may not have committed crimes, is at the heart of a Chicago case to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. In 1992, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the Chicago Police Department to disperse groups congregating in public if police believe gang members are present. People who refused to move along could be arrested for gang loitering, and a conviction can result in a maximum fine of $500, six months in prison or 120 hours of community service. Between 1993 and 1995, police arrested 43,000 people under the new law. One of them, Jesus Morales, now 22, was arrested April 4, 1993, after police said he refused to leave a street corner on the 1100 block of West Belmont Avenue, where he was standing with a group of Latino teen-agers.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have created several databases of suspected gang members. Here’s a sampling:
GRAB: The Gang Reduction Analysis Bulletin, created by the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department in September 1997. Provides names of suspected gang members and photos of tattoos, cars and graffiti. Data can be entered by the sheriff’s office, local police departments and the Cook County Department of Corrections. Accessible to law enforcement personnel worldwide through the Internet.
In March 1999, Chicagoans were pressing for police reforms based on a record-number of police shootings of civilians in the previous year, according to a story from the archives of The Chicago Reporter.