LOS ANGELES (CN) – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday his office will investigate the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of a statewide gang database after reports revealed officers falsely labeled residents as gang members.
Officers in the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division are suspected of falsifying interview cards during traffic stops by describing residents as belonging to gangs, according to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story.
The false records were then entered into CalGang, a database estimated to contain profiles of at least 80,000 California residents suspected of having gang affiliations.
In response, the California Justice Department will examine LAPD records and policies on both entries and utilization of the CalGang database by officers.
“Transparency and accountability are fundamental to effective policing,” Becerra said in a prepared statement. “The CalGang database is only as good as the information put into it. False or inaccurate data contaminates a system wholly reliant on the integrity of such data.”
All LAPD units, not only the Metro Division, are subject to the audit which will examine officers’ body-camera recordings and other relevant media, Becerra said.
California Department of Justice officials will also observe LAPD officers as they undergo a required training on the use of CalGang.
Becerra declined to further describe the scope of his office’s investigation, such as the timeline of the audit, how many years of records investigators will inspect and whether any other law enforcement agencies will be probed.
The LAPD will launch its own, parallel investigation, according to Becerra.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore was not present at Monday’s announcement and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Becerra told reporters his office will conduct the audit under the authority granted by Assembly Bill 90, a bill passed in 2017 which transfers oversight of CalGang to the California Department of Justice.
Under a formal agreement to be signed at a later date, the state could suspend or revoke the LAPD’s access to CalGang.
In a statement last month, the LAPD acknowledged that at least one resident had been falsely labeled as a gang member by an officer who was later fired by Chief Moore.
The incident came to light after a San Fernando Valley mother told LAPD supervisors that her son was misidentified as a gang member after an encounter with police.
After an internal investigation, which included a review of involved officers’ body-worn camera video, the LAPD removed the boy’s profile from CalGang.
All involved officers were later taken off active duty or removed from the field.
Becerra told reporters he’s unable to estimate at this point how many people have been erroneously entered in CalGang statewide since its launch. He said his office has proposed new regulations to make it easier for residents to contest their placement in the database.