While The NYPD Claims It Will Remove DNA Profiles for Non-Criminals from Database, Pressure Mounts Against State Criminal Justice Reforms
New York appears to be moving in different directions when it comes to certain civil rights issues and criminal justice reforms: In late February, the New York Police Department announced that it would start expunging some of the more than 80,000 people in its database – known as the local DNA index system – who have never been convicted of or linked to a crime. While New York State law requires that a conviction be obtained before anyone’s DNA can be included in a state-operated DNA database, databases operated by local authorities are not subject to the same rules, which means that the police department has been collecting genetic profiles and placing them in local database for anyone and everyone that they wish to, including not just those convicted of crimes, but also those who were simply questioned or arrested, including minors. This has drawn fire from a number of civil rights advocates, who have pointed out that not only does this violate a number of privacy rights, but that it is very difficult to get your profile removed once that is entered into the database.
According to the department, in an effort to overhaul this evidence that has been stored by the City’s Chief Medical Examiner, the police plan to audit a database of more than 30,000 samples collected from people considered to be suspects and remove any samples that are more than two years old that have not been linked to any investigations or convictions. The Department also indicated that it would provide a streamlined process for those seeking to have their DNA removed from the index. For example, those who have been acquitted would only need to provide a document proving this instead of a court order.
New Limitations On Collection Of DNA From Minors
Perhaps most importantly, the Department has also placed new limitations on the collection of DNA from minors, whereby investigators will only be able to collect their DNA in connection with certain types of crimes, such as felonies, firearm crimes, hate crimes, or sex crimes, and they must also notify parents or guardians first.
Civil Rights Advocates Question Credibility Of Announcement
However, many are concerned that there is no guarantee that any of this will actually be done and that state lawmakers should instead step in and pass laws barring the New York Police Department from collecting DNA in this manner. They have also pointed out that there should be one database controlled by one set of rules instead of two controlled by local versus state rules, as well as overall laws ensuring that minorities who have not been convicted of anything are not disproportionately targeted for inclusion in the database.
The Pushback Against New York Criminal Justice Reforms
State lawmakers may be wary about taking a stand for civil rights right at the moment, however, given the backlash that police, prosecutors, and some Republicans have been mounting in an effort to undo criminal justice reform here in New York. According to the latest reports, these lawmakers have found themselves exhausted and dispirited trying to defend the measures they just won that went into place on January 1 in the face of the public fear mongering campaign to undo these measures and perhaps go even further in getting new restrictive measures put in place that would allow for people to be sent to jail without the benefit of a trial; just based on the potential to commit a crime in the future.
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