DNA Pushback

The pushback to Mayor Bloomberg’s call for a vast expansion of the State’s DNA database has already begun. The Innocence Project just issued a release that lays out the reasons for its opposition. One of those concerns, expressed by a group of scientists and ethicists under the Project’s umbrella, is that the entire genomes of suspects who have not been convicted could end up in the files of law enforcement.

But this afternoon, when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked about whether the proposed database would compromise privacy, he said “That’s why the Mayor is setting the standard at convictions.”

Indeed, the mayor made clear that only convicted criminals would have to provide DNA samples. That is a policy that the Innocence Project supports, though they question how realistically effective it would be.

Other concerns voiced by victims and former prosecutors affiliated with the Innocence Project are included below.

—Jason Horowitz

We don’t all oppose adding more DNA profiles to the database, but we have serious concerns about how this expansion has come about and the unintended consequences it may bring. The public should know the answers to important questions such as:

How much will this expansion cost the state, where will that money come from, and what else will not be funded in order to pay for the expansion? Which crime victims’ services and crime prevention programs will be impacted financially?
Will this expansion – which Governor Pataki has said will add some 40,000 profiles to the DNA Database in 2006 alone – create backlogs in the state’s crime labs? What staffing, training, and technology changes will be necessary to ensure that the work is done properly while trying to meet this demand?
How will this expansion impact other forensic work being done in the state’s crime labs?
What measure will the state take to ensure that crime scene evidence is processed and analyzed quickly – the key to solving crimes?

Until these questions are answered, the state’s DNA Database expansion should not move forward. It is precisely because we support strong, sound law enforcement that we question this expansion and call for full, open consideration of the implications of expanding the DNA Database so fundamentally.