A California gang database maintained by law enforcement agencies is rife with unsubstantiated entries, names that should have been purged long ago and glaring errors, a state audit released Thursday found.
As a result of poor oversight, the CalGang database, which includes the names of more than 150,000 suspected gang members and affiliates, contains questionable information that may violate the privacy rights of many individuals, according to the audit.
In one of the most telling examples, auditors found the names of 42 people whose birth dates indicated they were one year of age or younger at the time they were entered into the database. Of those, 28 were entered for “admitting to being gang members,” according to State Auditor Elaine M. Howle.
Although state-funded, the CalGang database is overseen by an executive board and advisory committee made up of local law enforcement officials with no statutory authority. Howle noted that model means there is almost no public transparency or scrutiny of its work.
“Our review uncovered numerous examples demonstrating weaknesses in the user agencies’ approaches for entering information into CalGang,” auditors wrote
For decades the database has been a way for police officers to check on suspected gang ties and affiliations.
A sample of data from four user agencies — Los Angeles and Santa Ana police and Santa Clara County and Sonoma County sheriffs — found they “could not substantiate numerous CalGang entries they had made, demonstrating weaknesses in the processes for entering, evaluating and auditing the data in CalGang,” the audit said.
A review of 100 individuals placed in the database by the four agencies found 13 were “inappropriately included.”
Auditors found more than 600 individuals who were still listed even though their files should have been purged because they hadn’t been updated within five years. Many of those records were not scheduled to be purged for more than 100 years.