The emails reveal how the Metropolitan Police Department’s gang database is connected to other flawed tough-on-crime initiatives.
AUGUST 2016, an administrator for Washington, D.C.’s, Metropolitan Police Department emailed a link to a news article to a colleague in the department’s Criminal Intelligence Branch. The article was about an audit of California’s statewide database of gang members; the database, the audit found, was riddled with civil rights violations and errors, including 42 instances in which the supposed gang member’s age when they were added was less than 1 year old. The article “raised a lot of interesting issues,” the administrator said.
The MPD emails provide one of the least-filtered and most in-depth pictures yet of a local gang database’s operations and flaws.
The link was eventually forwarded to Daniel Hall, the intelligence branch’s top civilian analyst. Hall, a main developer of the MPD’s own gang database, laughed off the administrator’s concerns. “See this is why I built the gang database!! Im the savior of this unit!” he emailed a colleague. “As long as you don’t have any one year olds in there,” the colleague replied, adding a winking face emoticon.
“Haha no I created it after I went through all the records,” Hall said. “Im the reallllllll deallllll.”
Yet the gang database Hall helped build suffered from many of the same deficiencies as the California database. A spreadsheet of the MPD database shared internally the next month included a supposed gang member who was less than 1 year old, as well as 2, 3, 5, and 6-year-olds. The 2,575 names in the spreadsheet also included children as young as 14.