Law enforcement officers and child welfare advocates are concerned about a little-noticed change to California's child abuse database, saying it could hamper their ability to keep tabs on hundreds of suspected abusers who work with kids outside the home, including teachers, coaches and clergy.I did not notice this change either, but the police should certainly not put the names of suspects on the database.
The database is used to flag such people when they apply to work with kids, adopt or take on foster children. It was changed in 2011 to protect the rights of the accused and shield the state from lawsuits, but one provision prohibited police from submitting suspects' names to it.
Men are innocent until proven guilty. If the cops find someone committing a crime, then they can make an arrest and/or pass the evidence to the DA. But to put people on a child abuser database without filing charges? Absolutely not.
The law's author, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, stands by the change, saying it was needed to ensure innocent people weren't unfairly flagged and noting that police still have the power to arrest someone if they can substantiate allegations against them.Unfortunately CPS can still place somebody's name in the database just because they think somebody's guilty.
"They can't just place somebody's name (in the database) just because they think somebody's guilty," he said.
The latest change, approved by the Legislature without any significant opposition, was the result of the state spending millions of dollars to defend lawsuits brought by people whose names appeared on the database though no criminal charges were brought.The state should abolish the whole database.
Ammiano's original bill sought to block from the database cases in which an investigation of abuse allegations was inconclusive and to ensure an appeals process to remove someone's name. But then the provision was added to bar all police reports, including "substantiated" cases in which an investigator believes evidence "makes it more likely than not" that abuse occurred, but that the person may never be arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.
As of April, the database held 672,634 individuals with substantiated cases, 41 percent of which came from law enforcement reports that were submitted prior to the change, according to the state Department of Justice. No law enforcement reports were added since the change.
Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, supported Ammiano's bill but is willing to look at it again.This means that the supposed do-gooders will do everything they can to make unfounded accusations, up to the point where the courts say that it unconstitutional.
"We want as much information in as constitutionally permissive to keep kids safe," while balancing due-process rights, Mecca said. He said he would be open to having a discussion with police and child welfare advocates to hear their suggestions to improve the current database.
"The Legislature has been moving that needle" for decades, Mecca said. "If there's an argument for another tweak of the needle, maybe there is."
Ammiano wrote a letter to the San Jose paper editor:
Due process a key part of child abuse casesGood for him. A reader sent me this link, and added:
Due process -- a citizen's protection against state excesses -- is one of our Constitution's great provisions.
It is also at the center of a recent AP story. The headline suggests, "Law change makes child abuse hard to track." The law does not affect proven abuse.
Police apparently want to put names on the Child Abuse Central Index without proof, without notifying people, without giving them a chance to respond -- in short, without due process. That jeopardized CACI and lead to the change in law.
The law doesn't merely "shield the state from lawsuits." Existing court decisions threatened to invalidate the whole abuse database because of police conduct. What hinders tracking is police failure to investigate cases so that charges are filed, or transfer them to child welfare agencies.
It's unconscionable -- when DNA testing increasingly reveals police errors long after trials -- that officials would tar innocent people based on mere suspicion.
Assemblyman, 17th District San Francisco
As you have posted, you were placed on the CACI despite the allegations against you being unfounded. And the US Supreme Court didn't even want to touch the CACI issue.