Governor Brown, Sign AB 2298-Keep Children Off Gang Databases!

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AB 2298: (1) Ensures people of all ages right to notification, right to challenge designation with the law enforcement agency, and right to appeal to Superior Court if they are added to a shared gang database (including but not limited to CalGang); and (2) Requires the State of California to release data every year covering the numbers and demographics of people added or removed from shated gang databases.
 
We have met four times with the Governor’s office, but law enforcement is really trying to kill this bill.
 
PLEASE – IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE IT – SEND THE GOVERNOR A LETTER ASAP to: leg.unit@gov.ca.gov
and (2) e-mail us a copy, so we can make sure it gets recorded: action@youth4justice.org
 
ALSO, PLEASE SEND THIS MESSAGE OUT AND GET ALL YOUR PEOPLE TO CONTACT THE GOVERNOR.
 
Use the sample below to write the Governor a letter of support from your organization, (group, coalition, house of worship, club, etc.) Below the letter are two infographics you can use in your outreach that highlight the impacts of shared gang databases. THANK YOU.
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SAMPLE LETTER
 
ORGANIZATION LETTERHEAD
Date
 
The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor, State of California
State Capitol, 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814
VIA E-MAIL: leg.unit@gov.ca.gov
VIA FAX: (916) 558-3160
 
Re: Support for Assembly Bill 2298 – Weber, Gang Databases – Request for Signature
 
Dear Governor Brown:
 
YOUR ORGANIZATION’S NAME HERE is in full support 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, and to have access to a court hearing if they feel the process for challenging their designation was unfair. The bill also requires the State Department of Justice to report on an annual basis how many people are added and removed from shared gang databases by age, race, gender and geography.
 
In the early 1980s, first 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. The largest system for accessing this information is the CalGang system, which is now used by over 6,000 law enforcement officers in at least 58 counties, as well as by several other states and federal agencies including ICE, the FBI and ATF.
 
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 of 2013, no person labeled as a gang member, affiliate or associate had a legal right to be notified or an opportunity to appeal their designation. Now under SB 458, only youth under the age of 18 have those rights, and a recent audit of shared gang databases by the State Auditor further revealed that SB 458 has not been implemented fully or fairly by law enforcement agencies.
 
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. Information of databases is often used to add people to gang injunctions, contributes to arguments by prosecutors for gang enhancements in court, and is 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 for childhood arrivals and prosecutorial discretion.
 
As described above, an audit just released by the State of California further exposed that shared gang databases – including CalGang – are overly broad, inaccurate, fail to protect people’s privacy, and are out of compliance with state law (SB 458 – Wright) and federal regulations. The audit also revealed that 42 individuals’ data was either entered incorrectly or they were one year of age or younger when they were added into the CalGang Database; and 28 of those entered as babies were designated as “admitted gang members.” In addition, the audit found more than 600 people who were still on the database, although their name should have been purged. Many people were scheduled for removal from the database in more than 100 years – again, a violation of both California procedure and federal regulations.
 
To Increase Accuracy – AB 2298 will:
(1) Create a process for the removal from gang databases of individuals not currently active in a gang
(2) Contrary to concerns raised by some law enforcement lobbyists, AB 2298 does not require law enforcement to notify someone if that person is part of an active criminal investigation; nor does it require law enforcement to notify someone if they are added to a database that is not shared with another law enforcement agency.
 
To Establish Consistency – AB 2298 will:
Create standard processes for law enforcement agencies across the state regarding implementation of both SB 458 and AB 2298.
To Promote Transparency – AB 2298 will:
(1) Provide notice to individuals before they are documented as gang members and allow individuals to inquire about their inclusion in gang databases, provided they are not targets of an active criminal investigation, and provide individuals opportunity to challenge that designation.
(2) Require the annual release of data on the numbers and demographics of people added to or removed from gang databases.
 
DESCRIBE YOUR ORGANIZATION AND WHY AB 2298 IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND/OR YOUR MEMBERS OR CONSTITUENTS.
 
For all these reasons, we urge you to sign AB 2298. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
 
Sincerely,
Signature
Name and Title
cc: action@youth4justice.org

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