The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:
As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning the CalGang database and how law enforcement has implemented requirements for adding juveniles to CalGang.
This report concludes that CalGang’s current oversight structure does not ensure that law enforcement agencies (user agencies) collect and maintain criminal intelligence in a manner that preserves individuals’ privacy rights. Although the California Department of Justice funds it, CalGang is not established in state statute and consequently receives no state oversight. Instead, the CalGang Executive Board and the California Gang Node Advisory Committee (CalGang’s governance) oversee CalGang and function independently from the State and without transparency or meaningful opportunities for public input.
Inadequate oversight contributed to the numerous instances in which the four user agencies we examined could not substantiate the validity of CalGang entries. Specifically, the agencies lacked adequate support for 13 of 100 people we reviewed in CalGang and for 131 of 563 (23 percent) of the CalGang criteria entries we reviewed. Although a person’s CalGang record must be purged after five years unless updated with subsequent criteria, we found more than 600 people in CalGang whose purge dates extended beyond the five-year limit, many of which were more than 100 years in the future. Finally, the user agencies have poorly implemented a 2014 state law requiring notifications before adding a juvenile to CalGang. Two agencies we reviewed did not provide juveniles and parents with enough information to reasonably contest the juveniles’ gang designations, thereby denying many people their right to contest a juvenile’s gang designation.
Although it asserts compliance with federal regulations and state guidelines—standards designed to protect privacy and other constitutional rights—little evidence exists that CalGang’s governance has ensured these standards are met. As a result, user agencies are tracking some people in CalGang without adequate justification, potentially violating their privacy rights. Further, by not reviewing information as required, CalGang’s governance and user agencies have diminished the system’s crime-fighting value. Although CalGang is not to be used for expert opinion or employment screenings, we found at least four appellate cases referencing expert opinions based on CalGang and three agencies we surveyed confirmed they use CalGang for employment screenings. Although these practices do not appear to be common place, they emphasize the effect CalGang can have on a person’s life.
We believe that CalGang needs an oversight structure that ensures that information is reliable and that users adhere to requirements that protect individuals’ rights. Thus, we recommend that the Legislature adopt state law assigning Justice the responsibility for CalGang oversight and specifying that CalGang must operate under defined requirements, such as supervisory and periodic record reviews.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA