from the just-say-ah dept.
The ACLU has sued the San Diego Police Department, seeking the destruction of DNA samples collected from minors during a stop that was found to be unlawful:
Specifically targeting black children for unlawful DNA collection is a gross abuse of technology by law enforcement. But it's exactly what the San Diego Police Department is doing, according to a lawsuit just filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties on behalf of one of the families affected. SDPD's actions, as alleged in the complaint, illustrate the severe and very real threats to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights presented by granting law enforcement access to our DNA. SDPD must stop its discriminatory abuse of DNA collection technology.
According to the ACLU's complaint, on March 30, 2016, police officers stopped five African American minors as they were walking through a park in southeast San Diego. There was no legal basis for the stop. As an officer admitted at a hearing in June 2016, they stopped the boys simply because they were black and wearing blue on what the officers believed to be a gang "holiday."
Despite having no valid basis for the stop, and having determined that none of the boys had any gang affiliation or criminal record, the officers handcuffed at least some of the boys and searched all of their pockets. They found nothing but still proceeded to search the bag of one of the boys—P.D., a plaintiff in the ACLU's case. (It's standard to use minors' initials, rather than their full names, in court documents.) The officers found an unloaded revolver, which was lawfully registered to the father of one of the boys, and arrested P.D.
The officers told the other four boys that they could go free after submitting to a mouth swab. The officers had them sign a consent form, by which they "voluntarily" agreed to provide their DNA to the police for inclusion in SDPD's local DNA database. The officers then swabbed their cheeks and let them go.
P.D. was then told to sign the form as well. After he signed, the officers swabbed his cheek and transported him to the police department. The San Diego District Attorney filed numerous charges against P.D., but they were all dropped as a result of the illegal stop. The court did not, however, order the police to destroy either P.D.'s DNA sample or the DNA profile generated via his sample. The ACLU seeks destruction of the sample and profile, along with a permanent injunction "forbidding SDPD officers from obtaining DNA from minors without a judicial order, warrant, or parental consent."
Two major world powers, the United States and China, have both collected an enormous number of DNA samples from their citizens, the premise being that these samples will help solve crimes that might have otherwise gone unsolved. While DNA evidence can often be crucial when it comes to determining who committed a crime, researchers argue these DNA databases also pose a major threat to human rights.
In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a DNA database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that currently contains over 14 million DNA profiles. This database has a disproportionately high number of profiles of black men, because black Americans are arrested five times as much as white Americans. You don't even have to be convicted of a crime for law enforcement to take and store your DNA; you simply have to have been arrested as a suspect.
[...] As for China, a report that was published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in mid-June claims that China is operating the "world's largest police-run DNA database" as part of its powerful surveillance state. Chinese authorities have collected DNA samples from possibly as many as 70 million men since 2017, and the total database is believed to contain as many as 140 million profiles. The country hopes to collect DNA from all of its male citizens, as it argues men are most likely to commit crimes.
DNA is reportedly often collected during what are represented as free physicals, and it's also being collected from children at schools. There are reports of Chinese citizens being threatened with punishment by government officials if they refuse to give a DNA sample. Much of the DNA that's been collected has been from Uighur Muslims that have been oppressed by the Chinese government and infamously forced into concentration camps in the Xinjiang province.
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