State Auditor Issues Scathing Report on CALGANG Database; Legislation to Deal with Findings

Sep 13, 2016 (San Diego) The State Auditor did a full examination on the CALGang system. This system registers suspected gang members and gangs into an intelligence database that is accessible to law enforcement across the state. On the surface it sounds like an excellent idea. The problem with the system is that it has been used and abused in different ways. 
These are some of the findings of the State Auditor that found in August of 2016:

Throughout our audit, law enforcement officials offered their perspective that inclusion in CalGang is of little impact to individuals because CalGang only points to source documentation. According to CalGang policy, information in the system itself should not be the basis of expert opinion or statement of fact in official reports, nor should it be used for any purposes unrelated to law enforcement, such as employment screenings. However, we found that these prohibitions are not always followed. In fact, our search of California appellate cases that included the terms CalGang or gang database uncovered at least four unpublished cases that referred to CalGang as support for expert opinions that individuals were or were not gang members. Further, three law enforcement agencies that responded to our statewide survey admitted to using CalGang for employment or military‑related screenings. These instances emphasize that inclusion in CalGang has the potential to seriously affect an individual’s life; therefore, each entry must be accurate and appropriate. 

These are serious violations of privacy rights. Moreover, inclusion in the database means that there is suspicion, not a determination of guilt. There are other legal issues. Among them, that parents of underage children should be notified so they can appeal. This is California law incidentally. Or that names should be purged after five years when no further activity is added. Some of the people in the database have purged dates well in the future. 

This again is from the report:

For example, we found 42 individuals in CalGang who were supposedly younger than one year of age at the time of entry—28 of whom were entered for “admitting to being gang members. ” We also found a significant number of individuals with illogical record purge dates—the dates by which the individuals’ records must be deleted from CalGang. Mirroring the federal regulations, CalGang policy requires that individuals’ records be purged five years after their dates of entry unless user agencies have entered subsequent criteria which resets the five‑year period. Nevertheless, we found more than 600 individuals with purge dates that were well beyond the five year limit; in fact, more than 250 individuals in CalGang had purge dates more than 100 years in the future

Audits also should be done, but they are limited in their use. So the system is prone to errors and abuse. Assembly Bill 2298, authored among others by Assembly Member Shirley Webber, would do the following:

This bill would require the notice described above to be provided to an adult before designating a person as a suspected gang member, associate, or affiliate in the database. The bill would require these databases to comply with federal requirements regarding the privacy and accuracy of information in the database, and other operating principles for maintaining these databases. The bill would require local law enforcement, commencing January 15, 2018, and every January 15 thereafter to submit specified data pertaining to the database to the Department of Justice, and would require the Department of Justice, commencing February 15, 2018, and every February 15 thereafter, to post that information on the department’s Internet Web site.
By imposing additional duties on local law enforcement entities, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The bill would establish a procedure for a person designated in a shared gang database who has contested that designation with the local law enforcement agency and whose challenge has been denied to appeal to the superior court.

This bill would address many of the recommendations that have been raised by the state auditor and increase supervision of the administration of the database. It is currently at the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed. 

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