California Fights to Hide Bungled Gang Database from Trump Administration’s Prying Eyes
Bureaucratic bungling is morphing into scandal in California, and former Attorney General Kamala Harris scrambled in December to keep the paperwork snafus away from the incoming Trump administration before she moved to Washington to be sworn in as California’s junior senator.
The problem is twofold. To begin with, what’s known as CalGang in California — a law enforcement intelligence system meant to keep track of criminal gang members — is all messed up. That would be bad enough, but paperwork errors in local and state governments are not unusual.
What complicates this particular pencil-pushing nightmare is President-elect Trump’s promise to immediately deport, some say without due process, illegal aliens who are found to be criminal gang members.
But what happens if the list of criminal gang members, as it is in California, is filled with errors?
CalGang is a state-funded criminal intelligence system shared by local police departments in California that targets “members and associates of Criminal Street Gangs,” according to the CalGang information page on the state attorney general’s website.
The webpage proclaims CalGang tracks the “descriptions, tattoos, criminal associates, locations, vehicles, criminal histories, and activities” of gang members.
CalGang is controlled by two oversight committees, the California Gang Node Advisory Committee, which deals with day-to-day operations, and the CalGang Executive Board, which handles administrative, policy and sustainability issues.
Sustainability could be a problem.
Although the state AG’s office described CalGang as being “a wide area, low cost, easy to use, securely networked, relational, intelligence data base,” state officials are worried that as a result of a “weak oversight structure it contains questionable information that may violate individuals’ privacy rights.”
And much of the information is just wrong.
An August 2016 California audit found pages and pages of errors in the CalGang database.
One example cited in the state audit report is that of a young man jailed in Sonoma County on a charge of resisting arrest.
An entry in CalGang shows that he admitted to being a gang member. But further investigation by state officials showed that he actually said he was “not” a gang member. And besides, the charge of resisting arrest falls short of what California law considers to be a “gang-related crime.”
But that one sad case is only one instance of a paperwork error in keeping track of California’s gang members.
The audit also found 42 people listed in CalGang were under the age of one, but 28 of those babies admitted being in gangs.
Something’s wrong there, right? Wait. There’s more.
CalGang regulations, as do federal regs, mandate that records of accused gang members must be purged five years after the first date of entry, unless new evidence of their gang activity surfaces.
But the audit showed 600 people in the database with purge dates “well beyond the five-year limit; in fact, more than 250 of them had purge dates set more than 100 years in the future.”