The LA Times
Originally posted 24 Nov 19
Here is an excerpt:
But law enforcement has plunged into this new world with little to no rules or oversight, intense secrecy and by forming unusual alliances with private companies that collect the DNA, often from people interested not in helping close cold cases but learning their ethnic origins and ancestry.
A Times investigation found:
- There is no uniform approach for when detectives turn to genealogical databases to solve cases. In some departments, they are to be used only as a last resort. Others are putting them at the center of their investigative process. Some, like Orlando, have no policies at all.
- When DNA services were used, law enforcement generally declined to provide details to the public, including which companies detectives got the match from. The secrecy made it difficult to understand the extent to which privacy was invaded, how many people came under investigation, and what false leads were generated.
- California prosecutors collaborated with a Texas genealogy company at the outset of what became a $2-million campaign to spotlight the heinous crimes they can solve with consumer DNA. Their goal is to encourage more people to make their DNA available to police matching.
There are growing concerns that the race to use genealogical databases will have serious consequences, from its inherent erosion of privacy to the implications of broadened police power.
In California, an innocent twin was thrown in jail. In Georgia, a mother was deceived into incriminating her son. In Texas, police met search guidelines by classifying a case as sexual assault but after an arrest only filed charges of burglary. And in the county that started the DNA race with the arrest of the Golden State killer suspect, prosecutors have persuaded a judge to treat unsuspecting genetic contributors as “confidential informants” and seal searches so consumers are not scared away from adding their own DNA to the forensic stockpile.