NYT: Dangers in DNA Testing

Mark Makela for The New York Times

Mark Makela for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A DNA ‘Magic Box’ Can Snare Criminals, but Also the Innocent” (front page, Jan. 21):

A Rapid DNA machine does more to threaten communities than protect them. It combines a potentially unreliable testing method with an ever-expanding and often unregulated DNA databank. New York City residents should be concerned because this practice is coming to their neighborhood police precinct very soon.

The New York City Police Department recently announced that it intends to use Rapid DNA in conjunction with the local DNA databank operated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Unlike other state databases, the medical examiner’s database stores DNA from juveniles as well as from people who were never charged with a crime, or who had their cases dismissed or who were acquitted.

The people whose DNA is stored in the medical examiner’s databank largely come from the same communities plagued by stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing: underserved communities of color.

The medical examiner’s databank, alone or combined with Rapid DNA, threatens wrongful arrests, prosecutions or even convictions. Unless lawmakers start to truly regulate the medical examiner’s database before technologies like Rapid DNA come online, our clients will continue to suffer because of the color of their skin.

Terri Rosenblatt
Allison Lewis
New York
The writers are staff attorneys with the DNA Unit of the Legal Aid Society.