The NYPD is sued for its ‘illegal and secret’ practice of collecting and storing DNA data

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) they would be collecting and storing ‘illegally and secretly’ DNA data from New Yorkersincluding children, whom the Police suspected of having committed a crime, without obtaining a warrant or court order.

This was denounced by the organization ‘The Legal Aid Society’, which presented before the United States Court for the Southern District of New York a civil lawsuit against the City of New York, the NYPD and the OCME, in which they ask to stop the practice that they classify as illegal and that, according to the defenders, affects primarily innocent black and Hispanic New Yorkersdue to the history of institutional racism in arrest rates in New York City.

“Thousands of New Yorkers, most of them black and brown, and many of whom have never been convicted of any crime, are found illegally in the City’s corrupt DNA database, which treats people as suspects in all crimes. related to DNA,” he said. Phil Desgranges of the Criminal Defense Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society.

The plaintiff organization specified in a statement that this controversial practice has allowed the creation of an unauthorized DNA database maintained by the City that, unlike federal and state DNA databaseslacks legislative authorization, “which empowers the City to treat thousands of New Yorkers as perpetual and perpetual criminal suspects.”

Attorney Desgranges added that this database “runs virtually unchecked, and despite promises from the City to reduce its size, the database has continued to grow at the expense of communities of color. We simply cannot trust the NYPD to police itself, and we look forward to judicial review of these destructive practices to provide our clients with the justice they deserve.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Legal Aid clients who, through interactions with nypd detectiveshad their DNA secretly collected without their knowledge or consent and placed in an illegal and unregulated database run by OCME called the “Suspect Index” – charges that the NYPD’s established practice of illegally collecting, analyzing and indexing the New Yorkers’ DNA constitutes an unreasonable search that violates the Fourth Amendment.

Once filed in the database, the plaintiffs say, the DNA profiles are placed on a perpetual “genetic lineup” and compared with DNA evidence taken from virtually any past or future investigation, all without obtaining a warrant. a court, and in flagrant contradiction to the New York State law, which prohibits the indexing of a person’s DNA unless they have been convicted of a crime.

Children are also affected

Legal Aid further charged that the City’s secret DNA collection practice also targets children up to 11 yearswhich can never be included in a database not authorized by state law, and even includes DNA from children that was secretly taken after the parents refused to consent to the DNA release.

“In a nutshell, no child’s DNA should be illegally and secretly collected and stored in a dishonest database, which makes him a perpetual suspect indefinitely, especially when that child has not been convicted of a crime,” he said. Lisa Freeman, director of the Juvenile Rights Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “New York law provides children with special protections to bar a lifetime of collateral consequences from encounters with the criminal legal system and the mere existence of this database, which compares a person’s DNA profile to the entire crime scene evidence ignores these essential safeguards.”

Specifically, the lawsuit asks the court to declare that the City’s practice of taking, analyzing, and keeping secret the DNA of individuals in its index of suspects is an unreasonable record that violates the Fourth Amendment, to declare that the maintenance of such indexing of suspects by the City violates state law and that the NYPD and OCME be prohibited from subjecting unsuspecting New Yorkers to these unconstitutional and illegal violations.

How do they secretly obtain the DNA?

For years, NYPD detectives have targeted unsuspecting New Yorkers suspected of committing a crime, including young children, by taking them to interrogation rooms that have been set up in advance to capture saliva, skin cells or other genetic material, as explained by ‘The Legal Aid Society’.

In these interrogation rooms, detectives offer people cigarettes and drinks to secretly collect their DNA. In one example, detectives gave a 12-year-old boy a McDonald’s soda and, after the boy drank and was escorted out of the room, secretly removed the DNA testing straw and placed the boy’s DNA in an index of people suspected of criminal activity.

The “Index of Suspects” database grows:

  • 31,826 profiles had the unregulated database managed by OCME, according to a report dated March 1, 2022.
  • 28,660 profiles had the database in the first OCME report on June 2, 2021.
  • 3,166 was the increase in profiles between the two reports, or almost a dozen New Yorkers per day.