Michael Campion, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has named a 20-member panel to study the issue of gang databases maintained by law-enforcement agencies. The work group will be co-chaired by Don Gemberling, a veteran advocate of government transparency, and David Johnson, executive director of Minnesota Justice Information Services.
The group will also include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the NAACP of St. Paul and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
The creation of gang databases sparked controversy following the dissolution of the scandal-plagued Metro Gang Strike Force last year. In particular, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office’s GangNet system, which at one point contained information on nearly 17,000 purported gang members, was criticized for casting too wide of a net.
State Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, introduced legislation that would have prohibited police departments from maintaining such databases. But the proposal was fiercely criticized by law-enforcement officials and quickly abandoned. Instead, the Legislature agreed to create a working group to further study the issue. (Read PIM’s interview with Moua, who announced at the end of the legislative session that she would not seek a fourth term.)
A series of eight meetings of the work group have been provisionally scheduled starting in August. The panel is required to submit its findings by February 1.