California Auditor Calls for State Control Over Online Gang Database

The CalGang database has been open to local law enforcement agencies, but the state auditor has found that it's neglected and riddled with problems.

by Morgan Cook, The San Diego Union-Tribune / August 12, 2016

(TNS) -- The California State Auditor called on lawmakers Thursday to give the state Department of Justice control of the statewide gang intelligence sharing database, which auditors found riddled with problems possibly related to its unusually autonomous governance structure.

Auditor Elaine Howle called for legislation removing the intelligence-sharing database’s governing board, which includes the San Diego Police Department and fourteen other member agencies, mostly local law enforcement.

The board and committee that oversee the CalGang database “operate free from the typical safeguards that are the foundation of government programs,” the report said. They “act without statutory authority, transparency or meaningful opportunities for public engagement,” leading to flawed data, violation of people’s rights, and misuse of the database, the report said.

“We believe that CalGang needs an oversight structure that ensures that information is reliable and that users adhere to requirements that protect individuals’ rights,” Howle wrote to state lawmakers.

Auditors did not report problems specific to San Diego police operations or data, or otherwise single out the department in the report.

Most of the auditors’ review focused on four CalGang member agencies — the Los Angeles Police Department, the Santa Ana Police Department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

As of November 2015, there were more than 150,000 people in CalGang, the report said. San Diego County law enforcement agencies entered about 6,000 of them.

Auditor’s findings included the following:

More than 600 people in CalGang should have been purged from the database because their files hadn’t been updated with new information in more than five years. More than 250 people’s records had purge dates 100 years in the future.

Forty-two people had birthdays that indicated they were less than one year old when police entered them into CalGang.

In a sample of 129 juvenile records entered by two agencies, 70 percent had been added to the database without properly notifying the children and their parents of their right to contest the decision.

A few agencies surveyed reported using CalGang for non-law enforcement purposes, such as employment and military screening.

“These examples emphasize that inclusion in CalGang has the potential to seriously affect a person’s life and therefore the accuracy and appropriate use of CalGang is of critical importance,” the report said.

Auditors’ recommendations to the handful of agencies singled out in the report included bringing in an outside party to check all the agencies’ CalGang entries for accuracy, then purging records as necessary. Most agencies agreed.

One agency, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, disputed the auditor’s findings and disagreed with the recommendations. The agency defended its administration of “a model criminal intelligence system,” and said following the recommendations would force it to stop operating as a regional administrative agency.

©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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