Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
Anti-police activists are attempting to shut down California’s database of suspected gang members. They claim that the database unfairly targets African-Americans and Hispanics, and that the system is still currently suffering from problems that were ordered fixed years ago.
The database is known as CalGang, and has the names of nearly 90,000 suspected gang members and associates. A 2016 audit by the state showed that there were many issues with the database, such as having the names of numerous young children. Though the system clearly has flaws, it still should be maintained.
There’s no doubt that there are people in the database that shouldn’t be there, but that doesn’t mean that the entire system is worthless. Most of the people in the database are there for a reason and just because some people don’t belong there doesn’t mean that a comprehensive database with tens of thousands of gang members and affiliates should be scrapped.
One particularly bothersome argument that opponents of the database like to bring up is the idea that it allows for disproportionate profiling and arrests of racial minorities. Christopher Sanchez, an advocate for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said that “today, if someone was to be placed on CalGang, they are being placed on that flawed system, it gives a reason for law enforcement to go and over-police black and brown communities.”
This argument is ridiculous given the fact that Latinos can’t really be over-profiled, given that they make up the majority of the population in California. Likewise, crime disparities for African-Americans explain their disproportionate presence in the database. This false claim by activists has no merit and distracts from what could be a positive force for reform.
Just because the primary argument from activists is ridiculously inaccurate does not mean that there can’t be improvements in the system. If the activists focused more on improving the database by ensuring that those in it are actual gang members and not young children, then they can not only achieve the reform they want, but also help police by providing a clearer picture of the gang problem in California. There is a clear opportunity for reform, but abolition is clearly not the answer.