San Francisco police allegedly used DNA from rape kit for criminal investigation
San Francisco police used DNA collected from rape victims to later identify them as suspects in separate crimes, city attorney Chesa Boudin said this week, calling out the practice.
“Rape and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing and traumatic. I am troubled that victims who have the courage to undergo an invasive examination to help identify their perpetrators are treated like criminals rather than supported as victims of crime,” Boudin said in a statement. Press release.
Boudin first learned of the practices last week after the San Fransisco Police Department arrested a woman for property crime and identified her using DNA samples she had previously given. in a rape kit, reported The New York Times.
Boudin told a news conference on Tuesday that he received a report from the lab that showed an unknown sample from a crime scene was matched to a DNA sample from a 2016 rape kit. which had been seized at the SFPD Crime Lab Forensic Biology Unit Internal Quality Database.
Boudin was told by crime lab personnel that using DNA from rape kits and running them into a database to determine any other information is “normal practice,” he said. said at the press conference.
The district attorney’s office has dropped the charges against the woman and is working on drafting a bill that would explicitly ban the practice in San Francisco; however, Boudin suggested at the press conference that there is reason to believe that crime labs across California are following similar practices.
“This case shows us how deeply flawed our criminal justice system is when it comes to meeting the needs of survivors of sexual violence,” said KellyLou Densmore, director of the Office of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Defense.
“Getting a rape kit is an extremely vulnerable and often traumatic experience.”
Boudin pointed out that such practices are not only unethical, but victims whose DNA is unknowingly stored are also violating their 4th Amendment and California rights. Marsy’s Lawaimed at guaranteeing the rights of victims.
Several of Boudin’s aides cited the invasiveness of a rape kit, reiterating how burdensome it is for victims. Victims who come forward and accept a rape kit must sign a waiver, but nowhere does this suggest that they consent to their DNA being used in another investigation.
One in two women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime, but these attacks continue to be underreported, District Supervisor Hillary Ronen said at the press conference, stressing the importance for law enforcement facilitate the manifestation of victims instead of creating additional obstacles.
“If this is a common practice, it is a practice that must stop immediately. It is to revictimize the victim. This is unacceptable,” Pamela Tate, co-executive director of Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence, said at the press conference.
“It creates barriers that again will hurt people, that will prevent people from coming to get the help they need.”
In addition to issues of under-reporting, the DA’s office said these practices disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
“The majority of survivors never report an assault. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, Colored, Disabled, Transgender, and LGBT survivors and other marginalized groups,” Densmore said at the press conference.
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