July 9, 2015 2015-504
The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:
This report presents the results of a follow-up audit of the California Department of Justice (Justice) related to recommendations made in 2013 by the California State Auditor (state auditor). In October 2013 the state auditor issued a report titled Armed Persons With Mental Illness: Insufficient Outreach From the Department of Justice and Poor Reporting From Superior Courts Limit the Identification of Armed Persons With Mental Illness, Report 2013-103. The 2013 audit report included recommendations aimed at ensuring Justice accurately and promptly identifies firearm owners in the State who are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm due to a mental health-related event in their life (armed prohibited person).
This report concludes that Justice’s delays in fully implementing certain recommendations result in continued risk to public safety. After more than 18 months Justice has not fully implemented seven of the eight recommendations that we reviewed from our 2013 report. For example, Justice continues to have errors related to its determinations of whether or not to prohibit individuals from firearm ownership due to a mental health-related event. In addition, Justice has not taken all steps to ensure that courts and mental health facilities are reporting all individuals for review to determine whether they should be designated an armed prohibited person. Although we recommended that Justice consider trends in court reporting and track reporting levels from mental health facilities, it has not done so. For example, we identified that 91–or 25 percent–of the 361 courthouses had declines of 30 percent or more in the number of prohibited persons reports in 2014; however, Justice had not identified the significant drops in reporting because it had not analyzed trends in court reporting. Similarly, Justice developed procedures to identify significant drops in a mental health facility’s reporting levels, but did not always follow them. Because it had not conducted any trend analyses regarding court reports or followed up with mental health facilities that show significant drops in reports each quarter, Justice does not know whether persons with mental illness are going unreported or if some other factor caused the changes in reporting levels.
Additionally, Justice maintains backlogs in its two processing queues because it continues to redirect its Armed and Prohibited Persons unit staff to work on another priority for which there is a statutory deadline. Specifically, during the first quarter of 2015 the backlog in its daily queue was over 3,600 cases, which is six times higher than its goal of having a maximum of 600 or fewer cases in the queue. Further, as of April 2015 its historical backlog was over 257,000 potentially prohibited persons. Based on its current rate of reviewing its historical queue, we estimate that Justice may not meet its goal of clearing the backlog by December 2016. Instead, based on its current pace, we estimate that Justice may not be able to clear the backlog until sometime in 2022. The longer it takes Justice to review the records in its backlogs, the longer armed prohibited persons keep their firearms, which increases the risk to public safety.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA