State Audit Finds Serious Lapses In CalGang Database
California law enforcement compiles a database of people involved in gang activity that the criteria and maintenance of the database has been the subject of criticism for years. Now an audit of the CalGang database prompted by Shirley Weber of San Diego has revealed errors, and substantiated listings and names kept on file warmer than required. Joining me now is assemblywoman Shirley Weber . Welcome to the program. Thank you and I appreciate being able to come on the show today. What first brought concerns about CalGang to your attention quick For many years prior to meet coming to the assembly I was active in the NAACP and involved with driving while black and all the other kinds of activities around community engagement. And law enforcement. I'm concerned there were many things that did not necessarily -- were not fairly applied in the various communities of color. One of them was the gang list that was developed. I became aware of this gang list through the NAACP and their concern that many individuals were placed on the list without actually having been gang members. I became more aware when my son was stopped in the Gaslamp. His car was searched and nothing was found and he was coming from dinner. At the end, the person said, we may have to place you on the gang list. He was shocked and hurt and upset by. I had to call to make sure he was not put on some gang list. Here was a kid who had done nothing and committed no crime and they were threatening to put them on this gang list. I've always had an interest in the list. When I became chair of the budget, I thought let me find out what's going on with this list. So I did. I made an item for me to discuss because it was being funded by the state. I wanted to know who is in charge and how is administered. Who can I contact if I wanted additional information? I went through the typical list you have as the budget chair of any expenditures we have in the state. I basically received no answer to any of it. I didn't know who is in charge of it. I know we were putting money into the Department of Justice. It was going to a committee that no one was able to tell me who was on the committee? What the research were? I was told list were purged and I had no information or data about who was purging the list and how often it was purged. I had kept hearing rumors they were putting little kids and folks on it. And of course Senator right passed a bill that said you have to notify parents if you put the kids on their said the parents could intervene and maybe figure out what's going on with their children. And if they are moving in the direction of eating a gang member. There was some effort to do that. He tried but he was able to whittle it down and get it down for minors. There has been some ongoing concern about the writ -- the list. But there has been resistant to sharing information about what it was, who is in control and how many people were on it. As chair of the budget, I should request an audit. We do often at many programs with the state. As you mentioned, some of the serious findings are the criteria, people got on the list for, the fact some people are supposed to be scheduled on the list for 100 years. One of the things that grabbed headlines was a finding 42 people in the database were less than one year old. That finding is probably a typo, but is it a indicator something more serious? This list has never been audited. When you have a list -- when someone discovers that many people on the list are let -- less than a year old, no one has looked into the list and they are putting names on without carefully examining it. Which led to the idea that there were people put on where there was conflict of information on whether they were a gang member, or not, who is watching Millis, the privacy issues -- clearly this is a list that has tremendous potential in terms of its ability to impact people's lives in a negative way. There really was no oversight. I was concerned because up here we have a lot of things called gang enhancements. If you commit a certain crime, you get more years because you are gang member. What happens if you didn't know you were a gang member? You committed a crime of some sort that may not be gang-related, that you get an additional two years as a gang enhancement could be added to your sense. This thing has some impact. Some of the data had been shared with employers, shared with military -- folks who applied to be in the military. The principles surrounding the list itself and his privacy was actually being used in ways that should not have been. What legislation issued -- do think is needed to clean up a list? We have a piece of legislation, that we had before we knew the report was coming out. This says that we basically are going to ask anyone put on the list is notified they are on the list. And they have an opportunity to appeal being put on the list. Clearly if you're a gang member, you would probably take it as a badge of courage. But for those who are not, you need to know they are putting you on the list and you have it right an opportunity to appeal it. That's currently where we are now. Now we have a piece of legislation on the Senate floor and we are hoping to get the governor to sign it. A.B. 2298. We know there are other pieces that have come out of the report which I think are good pieces in terms of putting it into the Department of Justice. Putting someone in charge of the list, having oversight over it. Having people adequately trained to basically enter the data and analyze it. And giving us a report every year of the persons put on the list and how many have been purged. And developing a system that within five years purged people off the list who are not committed an offense. You say is still an import mail -- an important law enforcement tool. Negative date -- gang activity is a problem in some communities and you want to be able to know who is a gang member. You want to know in case you have to do some investigation of who these individuals are. That's okay. As long as it's an accurate list, it will be helpful to law enforcement. It's not helpful when the list is not accurate and it becomes a situation of almost fear and intimidation in communities. If we are going to have the list bash I believe we can have the list, I believe it has to be structured in a different way, with accountability and transparency and has oversight. If that doesn't happen, groups like the ACLU, they will say this list does not exist if it is not an accurate list or used for the correct purposes of law enforcement. They have put together this thing that really works against them and others. It should not exist. The state should not be funding it if we cannot make the necessary corrections. We have to leave it there. I've been speaking with assemblywoman, Shirley Weber. Thank you for your time. Thank you. Take care.
CalGang, a database used by law enforcement agencies to keep track of people's alleged gang ties, may infringe on Californians' privacy rights, lacks rigorous oversight and is rife with errors, according to a state audit released late last week.
The audit was prompted by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who had said basic information about the database was unavailable.
Some errors appeared to be the result of typos: 42 people in the database were listed as younger than one year old and 28 of those supposed babies had "admitted" to being gang members, according to the report. But others were more systemic, auditors said. Some people were set to stay in the database for up to 100 years, much longer than allowed, and others were entered without proper evidence of any gang affiliation. And some police departments with access to the database used it as an employment screening tool, even though the information is only supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes.
"User agencies are tracking some people in CalGang without adequate justification, potentially violating their privacy rights," the audit said. "Further, by not reviewing information as required, CalGang’s governance and user agencies have diminished the system’s crime-fighting value."
Weber joins Midday Edition Tuesday with more on CalGang oversight and the likelihood of a legislative solution.