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How Does Someone Get Identified As A Gang Member In San Diego?

December 11, 2013 1:21 p.m.


Margaret Dooley-Sammuli,
senior policy advocate, ACLU San Diego and Imperial counties

Capt. Terry McManus, San Diego Police Department

Related Story: How Does Someone Get Identified As A Gang Member In San Diego?


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story today, how accurate is the statewide database of gang members. How does a person get their name off the list? Last week in the San Diego Association of governments is that 700 documented gang members are in a database but the list is not always accurate. A new law will require parental notification before a juvenile name is included in the database. I would like to welcome my guests. Captain McManus, there are 200,000 people on the Cal gang database. How does someone end up in the database?

TERRY MCMANUS: For us in San Diego and before us start with the criteria, the criteria is consistent throughout the state. There are ten pieces criteria that we identify, not all ten criteria but a number of them before they can place an individual into a database. For San Diego County, a requirement is three criteria must be met before we can document an individual as a gang member took for the state it's only two of the criteria.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Give us an idea of these bacteria criteria for an individual stocks by a police officer, what why would they be of the database?

TERRY MCMANUS: The most obvious is a person admitting their gang member, committing crimes that are associated with gang activity, this can be find in the found in the Penal Code. The individual displaying gang had signs, gang tattoos, frequenting gang and neighborhoods and committing crime with a gang neighborhoods, and in some instances gang colors associated. In

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Statewide to criteria is enough, but here in San Diego three criteria are required to get a person on the database?

TERRY MCMANUS: That's correct. We had to meet or identify three criteria before we can identify a subject as a gang member.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some of the factors are considered too general, some of these were point specific, give us an example of the criteria that might be too general.

MARGARET DOOLEY-SAMMULI: On the other end of the spectrum would be things like someone said that you're a gang member, another would be that you are in a place where other gang members are, that could end up meeting family barbecues or your neighborhood, and it could be that you're wearing when a police officer determines to be gang dress, that is very subjective and people make mistakes or draw the wrong conclusion, and that is certainly something that happens sometimes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do we know how people have ended up on the list, do we know people on the list by mistake and that they are not associated with gangs?

MARGARET DOOLEY-SAMMULI: They are very secretive and they are considered by law enforcement the intelligent, so it is not something you can get access to enlist your law enforcement. Or go down to the police department in charge he had asked for show identification asked for records. It's not easily acceptable accessible. And it is unclear to most people how to find out how you're on the list or how to get off of it. That is the attention of the new legislation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who makes these determinations?

TERRY MCMANUS: Gang detectives. They are trained gang detectives that work in our gate unit and the majority of them have qualified as experts in the courtroom, those are personnel in the police department that make the decision to identify or enter a name into the gang database. One step beyond that is the tech detectives themselves does not identify the criteria and then enter a name into the system. They put a report together for review by a supervisor before the name actually gets into the system.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is the purpose of the gang database?

TERRY MCMANUS: It's in intelligence database and a tool for us and the reason we find it important for law enforcement, the part of the community expectation and we are very assertive about getting bought knowledge about gangs and their minute membership because we know when you possess that knowledge, we can more rapidly meet community expectations and manage pilot crime related to gangs.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Even with the fact that it is used privately, can you give us an idea of how it is used and how would you use the fact that someone famous on this list when it came to some sort of future event?

TERRY MCMANUS: You're talking about responding to crime? Anything can be a description of a individual or vehicles related to filing crimes, for us the value of the gang database as a tool is that we are able to and share the information. A police officer cannot get into the system and start attribute data. The only people that access that information have to demonstrate a need to know that information. There is a training piece in place before my detectives are even allowed to contribute to that system. That is the case throughout California. As an example, when we are investigating at crime we often become aware that there are trends in certain areas. We typically become aware through the communities that we're any stay and was violence response to violence in the area. We use the information to protect where private crime will be occurring and with limited resources, and working in conjunction with the community we are able to better deliver with officers in areas where we know crime has occurred and we know that we're responding appropriately and we are putting our resources and places we know that crime will occur.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A new state law that we're talking about requires parental notification before a minor is put on the gang last year. Could you explain to us why this is necessary?

MARGARET DOOLEY-SAMMULI: I should add that the youth justice coalition in Los Angeles really pushed for this and did a lot of the research that led to them offering this bill, and what happened is not only that young people were being placed on the list, they were unaware of it and their parents were unaware of it as well. After something Dennis devastating happened, nor the parent child gets shot or something like that, they want to be able to respond is before something terrible happens. It's really about families asking for this change so they can be aware when their child is in golf in or suspected of getting activity so they can clarifier that they are not or intervened with their child to turn them in another direction. This leaves us legislation is very important and it's the first time that there's been any sort of due process and family participation when the law enforcement becomes aware of the fact that a young person is involved in a gang.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you see that parental notification made police in fighting gangs?

TERRY MCMANUS: Yes I can see that at least fully support that. We think that is a great proactive response to concerns on our side as well as the parental side as was mentioned. In a sense, it's for real formalized but we have tried to achieve, and to proactively get initially parents involved with their children if they think they have become become involved with crime potentially. We look for to working with parents in this bill is going to cause for us to notify in writing parents and juveniles why we are designating the individual as a gang member, and the next part is to allow the parents to choose to meet with us and the gang unit to sit down and explain how we came to that designation while at the same time listening to parents were going to present information to suggest why we think differently or what we have tried to do, here has been our involvement, with the ability for ourselves and juveniles to consider is this the right decision for that individual to enter the name into the system or is there a better approach involving the parents and community to get this person with the right track, that is our goal.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not everybody can access this database. Isn't the ACLU concern if someone gets on the database that it may be damaging to them as they move forward in their lives, how do you see that this might damage someone's life if their name is on the database?

MARGARET DOOLEY-SAMMULI: Once you are deemed to be a member of a gang, then you are subject to gain enhancements. You could commit minor felonies like drug possession for personal use or theft, and what may be a minor discretion or mistake, if you have been in a gang database that even a minor felony can go from instead of a three-year sentence you could be looking at up to seven years in prison. That is a significant impact on how you are treated by the criminal justice system and it also has impact on how you are treated on the streets by gang unit officers and has a recent SANDAG report shows, people tend to age out of gang activity, but one of the barriers to moving on and getting out of gang life is the perception of others including police that you are once it always will be a gang member. This idea that you are a criminal as opposed to may or may not be gauged in the activity, back itself can be a barrier to moving on into a normal life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So someone is on the database, and in the process of getting older they have moved on and I got up a member anymore. How do you get off the database?

TERRY MCMANUS: We purge the names from the database and every on a monthly basis. About twenty-five gang members are purged from the system every month. But then about twenty-five names are usually added every month. There's a five year period in which the game will be the name that game will be in the system. If that if a individual is documented because the criteria are met 2010, and there are no other criteria that, and that individual has not committed crimes, if five years goes by and there are no additional gang activities, then that name is purged from the system and we do that on a thirty day basis for the total names in our system and documented gang members of the city.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is number of routinely? The someone have to go down to petition for it or is that automatically?

TERRY MCMANUS: It's automatically. Detectives assigned to a gay group are specifically individuals within the group and they are tasked with managing those names on a thirty day basis, so it's brought to our attention and one review it we see whether or not that they will be purged and in addition to that, individuals and adults have always had the opportunity to come down to the police department to discuss why they are designated or documented as a gang member, and several people think it vantage of that, unfortunately most do not. SP 458 is going to allow parents and juveniles to be up part of that system.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am out of time. I want to thank my guess very much. Thank you both very much.