This database stores the DNA of 31,000 New Yorkers. Is it illegal?


“The NYPD’s primary motivation for collecting DNA is to legally identify the correct perpetrator, build the strongest case possible for investigators and our partners in the various prosecutors’ offices, and put an end to the victims and their families,” he said.

The city medical examiner’s office, which manages the database, said it complied with applicable laws and was operated “with the highest scientific standards” set by independent accrediting bodies. .

The dispute underscores tensions that have erupted in cities across the country over efforts to increase the use of technology and surveillance tactics in policing and comes amid a heated local debate over elevated gun violence. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams has called for expanding the use of facial recognition and software to identify gun carriers, which he says could help fight crime.

But civil liberties advocates and privacy groups have argued that progress comes at the expense of communities of color, infringes on the rights of people who have not been convicted of crimes and exposes them to a risk of wrongful conviction if mistakes are made.

“You can change your social security number if you are a victim of identity theft. You can’t change your DNA,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “You create this constant threat not for months, not for years, but the rest of your life, that you can be targeted by this information.”

The DNA database has come under fire in recent years for tactics used by police to collect DNA samples, often without a person’s consent, lawyers say. The department’s guide to detectives asks detectives to offer a bottle of water, soda, cigarette, gum or food to a person being questioned in connection with a crime whose DNA is wanted – and recover the object once they are gone.

These practices have drawn scrutiny in high-profile cases, such as when detectives offered a McDonald’s soda to a 12-year-old boy who was facing a felony charge in 2018, took the straw and tested it for alcohol. DNA. The boy’s profile did not match the evidence at the crime scene, but he remained in the system for over a year.


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