Police Abuse

California Attorney General Defends Gang Database Despite Abuses by LAPD

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced action against the department.


More than a dozen officers of the Los Angeles Police Department have been caught boosting their division's success rate by deliberately adding innocent civilians, including young children, to CalGang, a statewide database that tracks gang members. Now the California attorney general has decided to limit the damage, but not to question the database itself.

In a letter sent Monday to the Los Angeles Police Department, Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised an independent audit of the department's CalGang entries. The entries will have to be corroborated by other evidence, such as body camera footage, and L.A. officers will have to be retrained on how to use the system. Also, if someone in Los Angeles asks to be removed from the database but is denied, a higher-ranking police officer will be required to review the decision.

In a press conference yesterday, Becerra acknowledged that those added falsely to the database could be subjected to extra police scrutiny. But he also repeatedly claimed that CalGang is a good policing tool that keeps the community safe.

A state audit of the system in 2016 painted a different picture: In addition to a mess of privacy and civil liberties problems, it found a host of inaccurate entries, failures to follow basic rules, and transparency problems. Some abuses are likely linked to racial bias, as with the case of a black man who works as a gang intervention worker who learned he had been added to the database of gang members. (NBC News details his story here.)

It's unclear how many false records have been added to CalGang, and the number will likely remain unknown until an audit is conducted.

Watch the full press conference here.