EDITORIAL: Limit police ability to retain our DNA

Source: FBI.gov.
Source: FBI.gov.

What’s more personal than the genetic markers that define you as a human being?

Your DNA.

And therefore, what’s more vital to maintaining your personal privacy than keeping that information out of the hands of those who might abuse it, particularly the government?

While DNA has become an invaluable tool in law enforcement, particularly in identifying criminal suspects and victims, it also has shown the potential for abuse.

In Queens a few years ago, a man was charged with a store robbery after his DNA appeared on the same cash register as the real suspect’s DNA.

In California a few years ago, the DNA of a homeless man wound up at the scene of a home invasion murder. An ambulance crew that had transported him earlier to a hospital transferred his DNA to the murder scene when they responded to the call there later that night.

In another case, an innocent man was considered a suspect in a robbery after hesitating to provide his DNA to police.

Those are some of the major examples of how DNA evidence can be used to wrongly identify suspects.

Police have also used DNA databases to profile individuals, often resulting in minorities and the poor being targeted.

The American Civil Liberties Union says if your DNA is in a police database, you are more likely to be called upon when police investigate crimes. You, and even close family members with similar DNA, can be identified through your DNA and falsely connected to a crime. DNA isn’t foolproof.

It’s true, DNA can be used to exculpate innocent individuals, and it can be used by police to connect someone to a crime who otherwise might not have been caught.

But there are other ways to catch criminals than just relying on DNA evidence. And police shouldn’t have to violate innocent people’s privacy and civil rights to solve crimes.

The New York City Police Department’s extreme reluctance to purge its DNA database of individuals not convicted of crimes has raised new concerns among some lawmakers and civil liberties organizations.

It’s important that state lawmakers pass legislation in 2021 that limits how and when police may collect DNA samples, limits the length of time governments can store DNA collected from individuals who have not been convicted of crimes, and sanctions municipalities for retaining this DNA information too long.

The term “identity theft” usually relates to credit card information and Social Security numbers and the like.

But what bigger threat to our personal identity is there than when government indiscriminately confiscates our DNA and uses it against us?


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

One Comment

William Marincic

Of the few cases you describe there are thousands where DNA found the murderer or rapist. I would be more concerned with why China is collecting millions of people’s DNA in America, now there is a real story.

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