EFF Pressure Lead to Increased Disclosure of Abuse of California Police Databases

Posted by on Apr 16, 2016

EFF`s efforts to take care of holes in oversight of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) are paying off.

New information and records launched by California Department of Justice (CADOJ) show a steep increase in the number of agencies divulging cases of abuse of the state’s network of law enforcement databases a significant triumph for openness and law enforcement responsibility.


In 2014, EFF recognized significant failures in how a CADOJ committee accused of managing the system the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC) reviews abuse examinations. The body, EFF found, had cannot follow established treatments for disciplining users who break access rules, causing a 100 % boost in reported abuse since 2010.

EFF is worried about oversight of CLETS because it offers access to some of the most sensitive personal information of millions of people. CLETS permits California police access to more than a dozen state databases, including criminal histories and driver records, in addition to access to federal databases and Oregon s law enforcement network.

Provided that capability to access so much private information, regional authorities and the CADOJ place restrictions on how and when law enforcement can use CLETS. In one incident, an officer supposedly accessed CLETS with the intent of providing a founded guilty killer`s household with details on witnesses in the case.

On top of the oversight imperfections, CAC had no concept of the real extent of police misuse of CLETS. Regardless of the policies requiring all agencies to hand over information about reported CLETS abuse examinations, the CAC failed to get records from many agencies. In addition, CADOJ, which supplies management assistance and legal assistance to CAC, was damaging the original copies of misuse reports once the information had actually been gotten in into a spreadsheet.

Fortunately is that the variety of agents reporting their abuse investigations to CAC has now enhanced by 40 %. That suggests we now have the required annual filings from 662 companies instead of last year s 467 firms.

The uptick in compliance, however, is spoiled by the absence of one of the state`s biggest police: the Los Angeles Police Department, which has not submitted the required reports in several years.

Unfortunately, the new information exposes an even greater level possible misuse than previously divulged.

76 agencies reported that they investigated claims of misuse than in 2015, which is double the variety of companies that reported investigations in 2014.

Agencies opened 161 abuse examinations in 2015, a 35 percent boost over the 120 misuse investigations that were disclosed in 2014.

Of the overall investigations into CLETS misuse, agencies reported 107 cases of validated abuse in 2015. That implies 2/3 of all investigation led to conclusive evidence that abuse occurred. Another 49 investigations are still pending.

4 cases in 2015 resulted in felony charges. That`s a steep increase: there were just six cases increasing to felony level abuse in the previous 5 years integrated.

The companies with the most violations were: Yuba County Probation Department (15 violations), the Riverside County Sheriff`s Office (9 offenses), and Sacramento County Probation Department (6 violations). The San Diego County Sheriff`s Office released the most investigations 22 investigations although only three verified cases of abuse.

Another little bit of excellent news: CADOJ has actually ceased destroying the annual abuse reports once the data had been entered into a spreadsheet. As an outcome, EFF was able to recognize errors in the spreadsheet information, which CADOJ has actually since corrected.

EFF appreciates the CAC`s efforts to bring higher openness to CLETS, though the brand-new information highlights among our core issues: the body`s failure to take any verifiable action versus agents that fail to adequately punish misuse.

CLETS policies need that when a violation occurs, the firms are supposed to report the cases to CAC for review, and CAC has the capability to do something about it versus agencies that do not manage the cases poorly. A testimonial of CAC records reveal that these infractions have never been talked about during conferences, nor has CAC or CADOJ taken any disciplinary procedures versus firms.

Throughout CAC`s last conference in 2015, EFF took the body to task for cannot cops abuse, but the body will not meet again till at least April. We have engaged in direct negotiations with CAC and the CADOJ over how CAC conducts its meetings. So far, the agencies have actually accepted key openness steps, however it stays to be seen whether they will start examining abuse cases as needed by agency policy.

Because CAC is the sole authority for disciplining agents for enabling abuse of their systems, it`s time they began taking these offenses seriously.

Share This