In a lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society, it accuses the New York Police Department of secretly collecting genetic material from over 32,000 New York citizens and storing it in a “rogue” DNA database, according to CBS News.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan and claims that the police consistently offered people who are being questioned about a crime a drink, cigarette or gum and used the items to collect DNA.
In a Facebook post announcing the lawsuit, the Legal Aid Society stated, “For decades, the NYPD has used dishonest tactics to obtain New Yorkers’ DNA, including those as young as 11-years-old, by offering bottles of water or cigarettes to our clients detained at local precincts.”
The post continues, “The NYPD then continuously compares past and future crime scene DNA evidence against this database, which has led to wrongful arrests and prosecutions.
The City pledged to reduce the size of its DNA database but it only continues to grow, infringing on the rights of our clients. We’re suing to end these unlawful practices once and for all.”
The genetic material that is grabbed from people is cataloged in a “suspect index” that puts their DNA through “a genetic lineup that compares the profiles against all past and future crime scene DNA evidence — all without obtaining a warrant or court order to conduct these DNA searches,” according to CBS News.
The lawsuit was filed by two Legal Aid clients who claim that their DNA was taken without their consent and names the city of New York, top police officials and the city’s chief medical examiner as defendants.
In a news release from Phil Desgranges, the Legal Aid Society’s supervising attorney in the special litigation unit of the criminal defense practice, he said, “Thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom are Black and brown, and many of whom have never been convicted of any crime, are illegally in the city’s rogue DNA database, which treats people as suspects in every crime involving DNA.”
From CBS News:
“The local DNA database complies with all applicable laws and is managed and used in accordance with the highest scientific standards set by independent accrediting bodies that have regularly reapproved the existence of the database,” the chief medical officer’s office said in a statement.
“The NYPD’s investigations and tactics, including the collection of DNA, are guided by what is authorized by the law, the wealth of case law from the courts, and the best practices of the law enforcement community,” Sgt. Edward Riley, a police spokesperson, said in a statement.
Riley said the department collects DNA “to legally identify the correct perpetrator, build the strongest case possible for investigators and our partners in the various prosecutor’s offices, and bring closure to victims and their families.”
The Legal Aid Society said New York City promised to cut down the size of its DNA database but it’s only getting bigger, according to CBS News.
Nicholas Paolucci, spokesperson for the city law department said that the department is going to review the lawsuit.