Honorable Anthony Rendon
Speaker, California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219, Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Support for Assembly Bill 2298 – Weber – Gang Databases – Accuracy, Consistency and Transparency
Dear Assemblymember Rendon:
United Against Police Terror San Diego Uaptsd.org is honored to be a supporter of Assembly Bill 2298, which will require local law enforcement departments to notify people when they are added to a shared gang database, including the statewide CalGang Database; enable people to inquire as to their status on a database, to challenge their designation if they are no longer involved or have never belonged to a gang, to have a clear process for removal, and to be notified if they are removed. The bill also requires the State Department of Justice to report on an annual basis how many people are added and removed from gang databases by age, race, gender and geography.
In the early 1980s, Los Angeles and quickly the whole state engaged in an aggressive “war on gangs,” including the creation of gang databases. Since then – for nearly 40 years – gang databases have operated without accuracy, consistency or transparency. Information for local databases is primarily collected through routine police stops – on the street, in schools and traffic stops. Police gather information through a field interview, and local departments then feed this information into shared databases and also into the statewide CalGang Database. Most people are added to local databases and the CalGang Database without having been arrested or accused of a crime. Until the recent passing of Senate Bill 458, no person labeled as a gang member had a legal right to be notified or an opportunity to appeal their designation. Now under SB458, only youth under the age of 18 have those rights.
Nearly 20% of the people on the CalGang Database are African- American and 66% are Latino. Since only 6.6% of Californians are African-Americans, and just 38.1% are Latino, this represents an alarming racial disparity. Databases are often used to add people to gang injunctions, contribute to arguments by Prosecutors for gang enhancements in court, and are used to deny people access to victims’ compensation when a person is killed or injured. An individual’s information can also be shared and accessed by federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and ICE, having huge implications for a person’s ability to realize immigration opportunities including deferred action and prosecutorial discretion.
To Increase Accuracy – AB 2298 will:
- Create a process for the removal from gang databases of individuals not currently active in a gang.
To Establish Consistency – AB 2298 will:
- Require law enforcement agencies across the state to create processes for implementation of SB 458 and AB 2298.
To Promote Transparency – AB 2298 will:
- Provide notice to individuals before they are documented as “gang members” and allow individuals to inquire about their inclusion in gang databases.
- Require the annual release of data on the numbers and demographics of people added to or removed from gang databases.
As a former Gang Member of the Lemon Grove community in San Diego County, California, Operation “Lemon Drop,” a program leading to over 16,000 people stopped, as reported by the Voice of San Diego in January 2015, by county Sheriff’s at a local Lemon Grove trolley stop, led to only 200 arrests, only one percent of the population profiled. The Sheriff’s department exclaims, this unjust profiling is a result of “smart policing, a way to get in front of future crime.” “Lemon Drop,” also known to many as San Diego’s STOP and FRISK, along with Penal Code 182.5, which again has profiled innocent community members, are of the most dangerous violations of an individual’s first amendment right to access and travel on public transportation. The criteria to be profiled as a gang member, can be as irrelevant as “traveling in a gang area” , wearing certain colors and having tattoos.
For all these reasons, we urge you to support AB 2298.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Aaron Leaf , Director of Media and Film, Uaptsd.org
San Diego Explained: Operation Lemon Drop http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/san-diego-explained-operation-lemon-drop/