SF Public Defender Calls for the Immediate Destruction and Independent Investigation of Illegal DNA Database

SF Public Defender Mano Raju in September

By Vanguard Staff

San Francisco, CA – This week it came to light that the San Francisco Police Crime Lab has been using an illegally created database—compiled with DNA collected from people alleging sexual assault—to match them to unrelated incidents.

San Francisco’s elected public defender on Friday expressed outrage at the recent revelations.

Public Defender Mano Raju called on the San Francisco Police Department to destroy the database immediately and end this practice, saying “it tramples on the constitutionally protected privacy rights of community members, and is an offensive abuse of state power.”

In light of the SFPD Crime Lab’s history of illegal conduct, the public defender said, including multiple drug lab scandals, “Police Chief Bill Scott’s suggestion that his own internal Investigations Bureau will ‘review the matter’ is an example of his department’s efforts to evade real accountability for its misconduct and to avoid reform through independent investigation.”

Raju said, “The secret practice of creating and illegally using a database with the DNA of individuals alleging sexual assault must end immediately. We also call for an independent investigation of the SFPD Crime Lab, real consequences for those responsible for this egregious breach of trust, and new policies and procedures to prevent further abuses.”

He added, “We ask for the release of information as to how many community members have been impacted and immediate redress for those who have been charged or convicted based on database matches using this illegal practice.”


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6 thoughts on “SF Public Defender Calls for the Immediate Destruction and Independent Investigation of Illegal DNA Database”

  1. Alan Miller

    Is it a separate, ‘illegal’ database, or is it that rape victim’s DNA is logged in a common database for all DNA and therefore available to be matched to crimes?  While maybe not the issue of concern, this is important on a practical level.  As unique and complex as a DNA database might be, I’d be surprised if the databases were separate, though they could be.  More likely, only one database is used for DNA, and therefore anyone can be looked up as a criminal even if they were logged originally as a crime victim.  That’s how the previous article seemed to frame it, though it wasn’t definitive.  I’d be happy to be proved wrong.  And I do share the concern about people who may have committed a crime not coming forward as a rape victim if they are concerned their DNA sample could be used against them.

    1. David Greenwald

      What Boudin said on Tuesday is that there is a national database, CODIS, which is maintained by the FBI with DNA profiles that have been collected. He said, “We don’t have any reason to believe that survivors of sexual assault in San Francisco are having their DNA input into CODIS. They’re being maintained as this lab report says in An SFPD internal quality database. It’s a database limited to San Francisco, but used routinely to search unknown DNA samples against.”

  2. Barry Fisher

    I’m not certain whether the SFPD is doing anything illegal, per se. It may be an ill-advised practice. If it is demonstrated that sexual assault victims, knowing that the SFPD might use a victim’s DNA to gather evidence of a subsequent crime, might refuse to give DNA evidence of a rape case, then something might be done. However, it seems that this is a public policy matter that the City/County of San Francisco could remedy if they believed this to be a serious and often used practice. Otherwise, this might be more of a tempest in a teapot.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Otherwise, this might be more of a tempest in a teapot.

    Otherwise known as part of a political campaign.  And possibly a losing one, at that.

    Sounds like Gascon might be “safe”, at least. So, maybe David can take solace in that.

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