Report 2013-103 Recommendations and Responses in 2015-041

Report 2013-103: 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

Department Number of Years Reported As Not Fully Implemented Total Recommendations to Department Not Implemented After One Year Not Implemented as of 2014-041 Response Not Implemented as of Most Recent Response
Department of Justice 2 20 5 5 5

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it has the necessary information to identify armed prohibited persons with mental illness, Justice should coordinate with the AOC at least once a year to share information about court reporting levels and to determine the need to distribute additional information to courts about reporting requirements and the manner in which to report. In coordinating with the AOC about potential underreporting, at a minimum Justice should consider trends in the number of reports each court sends and the number of reports that it might expect to receive from a court given the court's size, location, and reporting history. Whenever Justice identifies a court that it determines may not be reporting all required information, it should request that the court forward all required case information.

Response

The Department has on-going communication with the AOC Supervising Research Analyst Francine Byrne. Procedures were updated this year (May 2015) to reflect outreach to the AOC from a yearly basis to a quarterly basis regarding court reporting levels. A copy of these procedures will be provided for reference.

Additionally, the Department will be sending monthly information to all Superior Courts regardless of whether the court has shown a decline in reporting from month to month. A letter addressed to the Presiding Judge, along with a bar chart illustrating the data from the previous 14 months of reports submitted to the Department, will be sent on a monthly basis. The AOC will receive a copy of each bar chart sent to the Superior Courts on a monthly basis as well.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: October 2015
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it keeps an accurate and up-to-date list of all mental health facilities that are required to report individuals with mental illness, at least twice a year Justice should update its outreach list of mental health facilities by obtaining a list of facilities from Health Care Services.

Response

The Department is working with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to receive a list of all mental health facilities on a monthly basis. The Department will review and compare its list against the list received from DHCS. If there are any discrepancies found, the Department will work with DHCS to resolve them. The manager over the Mental Health Unit will do a high-level review each month and note any concerns on the list for the analyst to address.

DHCS stated they will continue to update their website on a quarterly basis. The Department is comparing its list with the website list each quarter and noting any discrepancies. A new procedure has been added to forward the list to the unit's manager for a thorough supervisory review to ensure staff have identified and corrected all discrepancies. The manager will make any necessary notations on the spreadsheet for the analyst to explain or correct. In addition, the manager will sign and date the bottom of each page to acknowledge that the supervisory review has been completed. The Department will continue to work with DHCS to resolve any discrepancies.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2015
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it continues to receive information from facilities that currently report individuals with mental illness and that should continue to report such individuals, by January 31, 2014, and at least twice a year thereafter Justice should implement a review of the number of reports it receives from individual mental health facilities. These reviews should focus on identifying any significant drops in a facility's reporting levels and include follow up with facilities that may require additional assistance in reporting.

Response

The Department has revised its procedures to send quarterly reports to all mental health facilities regardless whether the facility has shown a decline in reporting from month to month. A letter addressed to the facility director, along with a bar chart illustrating the data from the previous 14 months of reports submitted to the Department, will be sent to 1/3 of each reporting mental health facility on a monthly rotating basis. This will ensure that each mental health facility receives this report on a quarterly basis. A sample copy of the letter and bar chart will be provided for reference.

The Department continues to contact facilities that show a 30% or more reduction in reporting to gather information as to the reason for the reduction. All facilities that show a reduction of 30% or more are offered training by the Department. If the facility wishes to schedule training, the Mental Health Unit will work with the Training, Information, and Compliance Section to schedule training.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2014
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it makes correct determinations about whether an individual is an armed prohibited person, by January 31, 2014, Justice should implement quality control procedures over APPS unit staff determinations. These procedures should include periodic supervisory review of staff determinations to ensure that staff decisions correctly identify all armed prohibited persons.

Response

The Department added two additional Criminal Identification Specialist (CIS) III positions in the APPS unit to conduct the quality control review of APPS determinations. The quality control review process was implemented for prohibited determinations effective September 2014 and July 2015 for non-prohibited determinations. The CIS IIIs are responsible for reviewing 10% of each analyst's daily prohibited and non-prohibited determinations. The DOJA performs a random audit of no less than 10% of the determinations reviewed by the CIS IIIs.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: July 2015
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To reduce the risk that it may not identify an armed prohibited person, Justice should revise its electronic matching process to use all personal identifying numbers available in its databases.

Response

The Department is pursuing the system enhancements to the APPS database necessary to incorporate the inclusion and review of all personal identifying information (e.g., social security numbers, military identification, out of state driver's license numbers) into the APPS electronic review process. The Department submitted a management change request to the Department's Hawkins Data Center (HDC) on August 21, 2013, requesting the needed system enhancements. The information technology team assigned to complete these enhancements is also responsible for maintaining several firearms-related data base systems, as well as developing system enhancements necessary to implement recently enacted state laws. After the Department successfully complies with these statutory mandates, the HDC will immediately initiate our requested APPS enhancements. However, once the enhancements are initiated, they will take approximately six months to complete. In the interim, the Department has developed a manual procedure to maximize the analysts' ability to identify armed prohibited persons by conducting background checks utilizing all identifying numbers.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unable to determine
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that timely information is available for its efforts to identify armed prohibited persons and confiscate their firearms, Justice should manage staff priorities to meet both its statutory deadline for firearms background checks and its internal deadline for initially reviewing potential prohibited persons. Justice should report annually to the Legislature about the backlog of unreviewed potential prohibited persons and what factors have prohibited it from efficiently reviewing these persons.

Response

The Department has been successful in filling all vacancies in the Background Clearance Unit. Additionally, the Department received approval to hire an additional CIS II (the candidate is currently undergoing the mandatory Division of Law Enforcement background). Furthermore, the Department has worked with Budget staff to identify funding that will allow for the hiring of additional staff in both the APPS and DROS Units, thereby increasing the Department's ability to meet both the DROS statutory processing requirements and internal processing deadlines for reviewing potentially prohibited persons. It is expected that the advertisement of these positions will be completed in October 2015, and that the positions will be filled by March 2016.

The Department will report to the Legislature annually (March of each year) with a status about the backlog of unreviewed potential prohibited persons and any factors that have prevented the review of these individuals.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: March 2016
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it meets its goal of eliminating the historical backlog of reviewing firearms owners by the end of 2016, Justice should manage its staff resources to continually address the backlog, and should notify the Legislature if it believes that it will not be able to fully process this backlog by its goal date. To help guide this effort, Justice should establish benchmarks that will indicate whether it is on track to meet its goal.

Response

In order to address both the daily queue and historical backlog the Department has taken the following actions: 1) Directed all APPS Unit staff to work a minimum of 48 hours of overtime per month; 2) Redirected three full-time Criminal Identification Specialist (CIS) IIs from another unit in the Bureau of Firearms to assist the APPS Unit; 3) Redirected three Bureau of Firearms CIS IIs to assist the APPS Unit on overtime (40 hour mandatory commitment); 4) Recruited twelve analysts from other departmental bureaus to work 40 hours of overtime a month in the APPS Unit; 5) Conducted interviews and selected candidates to fill two vacant CIS II positions in the APPS Unit (both in place as of July and October 2015); 6) Received departmental approval to hire an additional CIS II in the APPS Unit (currently undergoing the mandatory Division of Law Enforcement background); 7) Currently working with the Department's Hawkins Data Center on one-time programming scripts to automate the processing of specified record types.

Additionally, the Department is working with Budget staff to identify funding that will allow for the hiring of additional staff in the APPS Unit on a permanent basis.

The Department is committed to eliminating the APPS historical backlog by December 31, 2016.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: December 2016
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

Justice should update and maintain its system documentation for the mental health and APPS databases to ensure that it can efficiently and effectively address modifications and questions about these databases.

Response

The Department reconfirmed with the HDC staff that reestablishing APPS and MHFPS database documentation due to the loss of key personnel, and the number of years that have elapsed is not easily done, and is not a cost effective process. It is estimated that the reestablishing of database documentation would cost the Department an estimated $200,000 in personal services and consultant contracts, and take approximately 16 - 20 months to be completed, while pushing back other critical data and legislatively mandated system enhancements.

The Department has completed its re-design for the APPS Law Enforcement Interface, which went into production in September 2014. The vendor who completed the APPS interface re-design, Palantir, in cooperation with HDC personnel, provided documentation of the database re-design. This re-design provided the Department with streamlined and enhanced data sharing, improved data analysis between systems, with a more robust and technological system.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Partially Implemented
  • Estimated Completion Date: September 2014
  • Response Date: October 2015

Recommendation To: Justice, Department of

To ensure that it fully supports its decision to apply federal prohibition terms to individuals, Justice should review all applicable federal and state laws and continue to seek clarification from the ATF and any other appropriate federal agencies to determine whether California's firearms restoration process meets federal criteria and, if not, why it does not. Justice should issue a report to the Legislature, within one year, detailing the results of its review and, if applicable, communicate why California's restoration process does not meet federal criteria and the impact that it has on prohibited persons who live in California.

Response

The Department is still awaiting a determination from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) regarding a review of California's process for restoration of firearms rights due to mental health prohibitions. The Department sent emails to the BATFE counsel in March, April and October 2014 requesting to speak regarding the status of their determination. The Department will continue to seek a response from BATFE. A fourth request will be sent again in November 2015.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Partially Implemented
  • Estimated Completion Date: September 2014
  • Response Date: October 2015

Current Status of Recommendations

All Recommendations in 2015-041