Two Bills Seek to Reform the CalGang Database

By Shaun Rundle, Legislative & Region Affairs Representative.

Two bills are making their way through the Legislature this year granting DOJ control over the CalGang database in California. One bill, AB 90 (Weber-D) would transfer authority over CalGang from the Executive Board to DOJ. A second bill addressing the topic, SB 505 (Mendoza-D) provides a similar approach with some minor alterations. CPOA and our law enforcement partners have lobbied both bills, which were introduced in response to a recent audit of the database by the California State Auditor.

Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber (D) of San Diego chipped away at the criminal justice system in the 2015-2016 Legislative session by giving the law enforcement profession two nightmare pieces of legislation. First it was AB 953, which created the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 and asks you to submit all vehicle stop data to DOJ with perceived race of the person(s) stopped. The second was a bill that granted felons serving their time in county jail, due to AB 109 and Prop 47, the right to vote.

This year’s AB 90 has been presented in part as another assault on people of color in California. The bill contains several mandates, which starting January 1, 2018 would:

Requires that the DOJ creates regulations regarding the use, operation, and oversight of any shared gang database, including the following:

  1.   Establishing the requirements for entering and reviewing gang designations;
  2.   The retention period for listed gangs;
  3.   The criteria for identifying gang members; and
  4.   Definitions of offenses consistent with gang activity.
  5.   The retention period for individuals listed in a shared gang database

CPOA opposes AB 90 in its current form. It is our position, like our counterparts at the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) that the bill far exceeds recommendations made by the State Auditor, and that placing another criminal justice database in the hands of DOJ sends the wrong message that the Attorney General’s office will “fix” the perceived local law enforcement perceptions. The bill will be heard this week in Senate Public Safety Committee.

SB 505 on the other hand, provides a bit more structure to the DOJ handling of the database. SB 505 requires, commencing January 1, 2018, that any shared gang database operated by law enforcement in California including the CalGang database, shall be under a moratorium. During the moratorium, data shall not be added to the database. Data in the database shall not be accessed by participating agencies or shared with other entities. The moratorium on a shared gang database shall not be lifted until the Attorney General certifies that the purge has been completed.

This bill also authorizes the administration, oversight, and development of regulations of shared gang databases in the state by the California Gang Intelligence Executive Steering Committee, under the authority of the Department of Justice (DOJ). This committee consists of leaders of the California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs Association, CDAA, and the California Gang Investigators Association. It does not, however, include CPOA. We don’t feel that our omission is purposeful, but often bills that include police and sheriff’s departments are often considered to cover the bases for law enforcement participation.

Due to our partners being on the proposed steering committee, CPOA has no position on this bill.

SB 505 passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee last month and will next be heard in Appropriations Committee to determine fiscal impacts.

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