Attorney General Becerra Restricts Access to LAPD-Generated CalGang Records, Issues Cautionary Bulletin to All Law Enforcement, and Encourages Legislature to Reexamine CalGang Program

Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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Actions come in light of concerns over the integrity of the system and ongoing investigations into LAPD’s use of CalGang and potential police misconduct

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has revoked access to CalGang records generated by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The restriction applies to all users statewide of the CalGang database and is issued pursuant to DOJ’s authority granted under Assembly Bill 90 of 2017 (AB 90). Today’s announcement follows the decision by LAPD Chief Michel Moore to permanently withdraw from the CalGang program after an internal audit uncovered significant misuse of the gang-tracking database by LAPD personnel, including entry of false information. DOJ has issued a bulletin to all law enforcement authorities urging agencies that use CalGang’s database to strongly consider measures, including a thorough internal audit, to validate the integrity of their entries into the CalGang system. Attorney General Becerra is also encouraging the Legislature to reexamine the CalGang program and consider further reforms in light of recent developments. 

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: CalGang is only as good as the data that is put into it,” said Attorney General Becerra. “If a quarter of the program’s data is suspect, then the utility of the entire system rightly comes under the microscope. The Legislature tasked DOJ with oversight of the CalGang database and with the development of mechanisms to ensure the system’s integrity. That’s why we’re formally revoking access to the records generated by LAPD. Public safety tools must provide a real benefit to the public and withstand the durability test of constant scrutiny. It should now be obvious to everyone: CalGang must change.”

Through AB 90, the Legislature authorized DOJ to oversee the troubled CalGang system. DOJ’s principal task was to promulgate formal regulations to standardize the use and operation of the shared gang database system and ensure conformity with all laws. Among the most critical of the applicable laws that govern shared gang databases is the requirement that there be reasonable suspicion that an individual is engaged in criminal gang activity in order to be entered into such a database. DOJ’s proposed regulations are now before the state’s Office of Administrative Law awaiting approval. 

In January of 2020, reports surfaced that officers at the LAPD may have entered data into CalGang’s system improperly, classifying individuals as suspected gang members or associates without reasonable suspicion. LAPD responded by ordering an audit of its CalGang activity. In February, DOJ announced that it, too, would independently review LAPD’s records and policies regarding CalGang in response to the reports of officer abuse. According to the most recent CalGang report and accompanying dataset, LAPD’s entries make up nearly 25 percent of the roughly 78,000 records in the CalGang system. On July 10, 2020, LAPD Chief Moore announced that the agency’s audit had confirmed misuse of the database, including entering false data, and misconduct by numerous officers. Criminal charges are now pending against three officers. DOJ’s review and audit of LAPD’s records and policies remains active and ongoing.

Chief Moore has now permanently withdrawn LAPD from participation in CalGang, citing the flawed data entered into the system by LAPD officers. Under AB 90, misuse of CalGang by a user agency may now lead to the imposition of disciplinary measures, which can include suspension or revocation of access to the database or the issuance of a letter of censure. In light of LAPD’s acknowledgement of the significant misuse of the database, DOJ has moved to revoke access to data in the CalGang system generated by LAPD. DOJ notified law enforcement agencies throughout the state of the revocation of access to LAPD data for all users through a bulletin issued on July 13, 2020. Attorney General Becerra urged all law enforcement users of CalGang to conduct a thorough internal review of their own CalGang records. DOJ, per its authority under AB 90, will be conducting targeted audits of user agency entries and practices. In addition, Attorney General Becerra has reached out to members of the state’s legislature to encourage policy-makers to review CalGang in light of recent developments. 

Attorney General Becerra is committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms across the state and working with local authorities to implement new policies. Last week, the Attorney General released the second of two reports on DOJ’s review of the policies and practices of the Sacramento Police Department and issued wide-ranging police reform recommendations. Last month, Attorney General Becerra launched a review of the Vallejo Police Department that will result in the development of a comprehensive policing plan in an effort to modernize and reform the police department's policies and practices, and increase public trust. Last year, the Attorney General entered into an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities. In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning police reform efforts, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversight of the police department’s reform efforts. DOJ is also currently engaged in pattern-or-practice investigations of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.

A copy of the letter sent to LAPD regarding these changes is available here. A copy of the information bulletin issued to law enforcement is available here. More information on CalGang and pending regulations to oversee the system is available here and here.

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