Target: San Diego Police Department & Los Angeles Police Department
Goal: Demand the right of appeal for youth added to racially unjust and arbitrarily defined gang databases.
For nearly 30 years in Los Angeles and over 15 years in San Diego, the police departments in these cities have been using a gang database known as Cal Gangs as a way to better control gang activity. However, rather than serving this purpose, the database is instead labeling youth of color who have never been convicted of a crime as gang members based on arbitrary criteria such as how one looks or what area one lives in. Youth are not informed when their names and photos are added to the database and in addition to not knowing what was done for them to end up on the list, there is also nothing that can be done to have their information removed.
There are currently 200,000 people in this database, including children as young as 10 years old. This negatively impacts the lives of these individuals because not only does law enforcement have access to the database, but employers, schools, and public housing do as well and this often leads to further undeserved punishment such as termination, expulsion or eviction. Further, if an individual is convicted of a crime unrelated to gang activity but has been inputted into the database, falsely accusing them of “gang-related activity” could result in an addition 10 years of prison time. Individuals inputted into Cal Gangs are overwhelmingly from lower income areas with large minority populations.
This month, San Diego Governor Edmund G. Brown signed legislation known as SB458 which now requires law enforcement officials to notify parents when their children’s information is inputted into Cal Gangs and requires written consent of this from parents. While SB458 is a progressive step in greater transparency and accountability on the part of law enforcement in San Diego, we demand further that legislation be passed regarding an individual’s right to appeal and have their information removed from a gang database as well, which would apply to the 200,000 people already within the database and would be enforced in both San Diego and Los Angeles.
Your signature would demand the right of appeal for innocent youth to be able to have their information removed from the Cal Gangs database.
Dear Chief of the San Diego Police Department, William M. Lansdowne & Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Charlie Beck,
It is unacceptable that your police departments are adding the names and photos of youth – primarily youth of color – to the Cal Gangs database without allowing them the right to appeal to have their information removed. Furthermore, this gang database is used most prominently in low income areas with large minority populations and have become a tool for racial profiling.
While SB458 which passed this month will now require law enforcement officials to notify and receive consent from parents of youth who are added to the Cal Gangs database, this is only a start in transforming the system into one that is transparent and just. I further demand that youth added to the gang database are given the right to appeal and the chance to have their information removed from the system.
Youth growing up in low income areas already face myriad struggles and do not need to worry about being wrongfully accused of gang-related activity. Please choose to stand on the side of these victims and grant them the right to a fair and just process of appeal.
[Your Name Here]