Guilty By Association and Gangs Are Misunderstood

guilty by association

People often judge you based on the company that you keep. If someone sees you with a well-dressed business professional, then he might assume that you are an upstanding citizen. However, the same person might see you with a group of thugs. They might assume that you yourself are a thug. Unfortunately, law enforcement tends to behave the same way. If a police officer sees you with a gang, then he might believe that you are guilty by association. Find out how your friends can impact your arrest record.

Are People Often Guilty By Association?

When it comes to gangs, police take a very strict stance. And that means that they often believe individuals who are around gangs are guilty by association. If you are in a gang or friends with someone in one, then the police might monitor you closely. They believe that you are more likely to commit a crime than anyone else.

To monitor gangs, the police use gang databases. Typically, law enforcement uses a gang database to keep track of gang membership and actions. If someone new joins a gang, they make a note of it. And when a gang-related crime occurs, they add it to the database. However, there is more than just information about the gang members in the database. It also includes the names of individuals who the police suspect might be gang members.

In most cases, these suspected members are family members, roommates, or friends of a gang member. Sometimes, the only connection that an individual has to a gang is the neighborhood. If you live in a neighborhood with high gang activity, then you might already be in the gang database. The police assume that you living in an area with gang activity automatically makes you a gang member.

Is There a Problem With It?

These police databases are tools to help the police officers do their job. However, they do show signs of a problem. The databases rely on labeling individuals as guilty by association. They make assumptions that can feed into racial stereotypes and even lead to false arrests.

One of the biggest problems with the databases is the lack of consistency. For example, the definitions of certain words are not at all consistent. This makes it easy for police to use bias in their judgment. Instead of relying on fact, they rely on their gut. Another issue is with the improper documentation of procedures. When an officer documents a new gang member or new activity, he does not always stick to procedure. And that procedure is not always clear or appropriate. If an officer wants to add someone who is unlikely to have gang connections to the database, it’s easy to do so. Finally, the databases don’t have an adequate review process. On so many levels, the databases are unfair.

What it Means For You

Being on a gang database means that the police have your photos and personal information on file. However, you may have no affiliation with a gang. In fact, you may have never done one illegal thing in your life. But none of that matters. The gang database does not rely on evidence. Instead, it relies on gut instinct and bias. This is unfair to innocent individuals.

If a police officer sees you on a gang database, he might be more likely to charge you for a crime. For example, there could be a murder in your apartment complex. During the investigation, a police officer could see your name in the database. As a result, he might question you about the crime. Despite your innocence, he might believe that your “gang affiliation” makes you the perfect suspect. This could lead to your arrest. Even if it doesn’t, it puts you in a bad situation. You might need to deal with police questioning and get a lawyer. If an officer takes it too far, then it could lead to harassment.

Why Do Police Often Judge You Based On Your Company?

There are several reasons for which a police officer might consider you guilty by association.

1. Racism

First, there is the issue of racism. Although many people dislike acknowledging it, racism is a problem in law enforcement. The police often see a Hispanic individual and assume that he is a criminal. Because police work does involve gut feelings and instincts, many officers use their racism and biases in the field. As a result, some innocent individuals are guilty by association.

2. Ease

Considering someone to be guilty of a crime for the company that they keep is easy. Instead of spending time doing detective work, an officer can take a shortcut. He can make assumptions about you and jump to conclusions without evidence.

3. Satisfy the Need for Suspects

In many cases, the police experience a great deal of pressure to find suspects and make arrests. Making someone guilty by association is a quick way to get suspects. It takes less time than examining the case.