Victory As LAPD Ceases Use of Cal Gangs Database
The movement to transform the criminal justice system in Los Angeles won a major victory in July when the Los Angeles Police Commission voted to permanently end the LAPD’s use of the CalGang database.
As Liberty Hill’s partners have worked for years to emphasize to the public, CalGang has a deeply problematic history. Since its founding, the database has skewed overwhelmingly towards Black and Latino boys and men. The criteria it uses are so vague as to stigmatize entire neighborhoods and communities with the “gang” label—which in turn helps push people of color out of gentrifying neighborhoods. A recent investigation by the LAPD confirmed that entries are often riddled with errors, or even outright lies.
Despite these flaws, CalGang has been used as a basis for “gang enhancements,” adding years and even decades to individual prison sentences. The human toll has been catastrophic.
The LAPD withdrawal marks a significant win for a more just and equitable Los Angeles. We’re especially proud to recognize the efforts by our grantee partners at the Youth Justice Coalition; Social Justice Learning Institute; the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition; Urban Peace Institute; Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC); and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA) who have worked tirelessly to expose the injustices and flaws embodied in the CalGang database.
The same day the Police Commission terminated LAPD’s involvement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra barred other agencies from using LAPD’s data at all.
But we still have a great deal of work to do together.
We must not rest until CalGang has been completely dismantled. And we must continue the fight with our partners to end youth incarceration as we know it and create the country’s largest youth development system here in Los Angeles.
Together, we can match—and surpass—these divestments from policing with investments in community-based resources such as physical and mental health, education, youth organizing, and other programs that will make our communities truly safe by empowering our young people and families to thrive and prosper.