We frequently handle cases where the discovery states that law enforcement has identified our client as being gang-affiliated. Police agencies frequently collect information on individuals who they think are gang-involved and enter it into a database, which is then used to investigate criminal activity. Recent experiences in California, however, demonstrate that these databases should not be trusted.
California has long maintained a database called CalGang. The database, which is not open to civilians and is therefore largely secretive, contains the names and personal information of approximately 80,000 individuals. Most of the people identified in CalGang are not white, and are suspected of being gang-affiliated. CalGang has been a source of problems and complaints for years, and there have been calls to reform it or shut it down.
CalGang plainly illustrates the fact that a database is only as good as the information that is entered into it. A 2016 audit revealed that it contained numerous inaccurate entries, including identifying information for one-year-old children. People were also entered into the database based upon overly subjective criteria including, without limitation, the neighborhood where law enforcement encountered them or the color of their clothing. According to the people who run CalGang, wearing a red hat, shirt or sneakers is enough to make you a gang member. Continue reading ›