CHICAGO - A South Side man says he was put on Chicago Police’s gang database when he was just 15 years old, and for years, he’s tried to get it removed.
“I do remember telling police that I was a stone. But again, I was 15 years old, didn't know what I was doing, didn't know that this was going to follow me for the rest of my life,” Louis Lay said.
Lay says the label has stopped him from getting a conceal and carry license, and a career in law enforcement.
“I don't think they should damage peoples' lives with this database,” Lay said.
The 29-year-old has come a long way. He recently showed us around the precious Blood Center, a safe haven for Lay in his youth.
“This place gave me a place where I could go to talk to people and let out some of those frustrations,” Lay said.
Lay says the Center, along with mentor Mike Donovan, got him on the right track.
“He just struck me as someone who wanted to do better, wanted to improve his lot in life,” Donovan said.
He would become the first in his family to graduate college, get married, and work for the postal service. It was all in an effort to provide for his family of five.
However, he doesn't want to stop there.
“It's marvelous that he's a letter carrier, but he wants even more than that. And this database has been an obstacle,” Donovan said.
Lay says he wanted to work at the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“I applied, passed the test, passed all the exams, the next thing you know, CPD gave them information that I’m in a gang,” Lay said. “And they're going to stop the hiring process right there.”
He called and emailed CPD to try and get off the list.
“I was constantly shut down with dead ends,” Lay said. “People who work for CPD didn't know how to do it, because they were surprised I was trying to get out."
CPD says its previous database is part of ongoing litigation.
Their new database is still out for public comment, but CPD says they'll have several steps to vet information, including a five-year "sunset" on gang affiliation.
This way, people like Lay, can move forward.
“If I was to get on the police force, probation, parole officer, I feel like I can do good for the community and show these people that might be in gangs or these young people that they can make it out,” Lay said.