Gov. Jerry Brown, seen in 2013.

California is one step away from allowing hundreds of thousands of residents to find out if they are listed in the state’s gang database and to appeal for removal after a bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday afternoon and headed to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB 2298, by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, would require every local sheriff or police department that uses the database to annually report its CalGang data and activity to the state Department of Justice, provide notification and appeal rights to adults added to CalGang, and tighten controls on the use of CalGang data for non-law enforcement purposes.

Juveniles in California gained the right to learn about and challenge their inclusion in CalGang in 2013. But a previous attempt by Weber to provide adult notification and appeal rights failed in spring 2015 amid significant law enforcement lobbying.

The climate in Sacramento is markedly different this year because of widespread community opposition to CalGang and a damning recent state audit, which found rampant privacy violations, incorrect entries and misuse of the database by local law enforcement.

Brown now has 30 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. He previously served as state attorney general from 2007 through 2011 and thus has close ties to law enforcement, which has strongly opposed the change.

If the governor signs SB 2298, California would be the first state to provide notification and appeal rights to people included in a gang database. Thirteen other states and three federal agencies operate gang databases modeled on CalGang.

Ali Winston can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @awinston.


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Ali Winston is a freelance reporter, covering surveillance, privacy and criminal justice. His writing has won awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, the New York City Community Media Alliance, the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Originally from New York, he is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley.