DNA Dragnet another drag on civil rights?

June 17, 2003

A DNA dragnet in Miami is raising civil liberties concerns. Police, searching for a serial rapist, are asking for “voluntary” samples from hundreds of Hispanic males.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said he feared the testing may turn into a “dragnet roundup of all Hispanic males in that neighborhood.”

He also said the samples should be destroyed once someone is cleared and the information should not be kept in a “database of innocent people.”

The SP Times article says

Miami police Chief John Timoney said state law directs investigators to maintain the information in the state DNA database in Tallahassee.

But later a state spokesperson is quoted:

Suzanne Livingston, the director of forensics services for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said state law allows the state DNA database to hold both volunteer samples and those from people convicted of a crime. The database contains about 170,000 samples from offenders and more than 5,800 voluntary samples.

So, does state law require (or direct) law enforcement to keep these samples from “volunteers”, or is keeping the samples just one option that is allowed, the other perhaps being disposal?

The whole idea of a policeman asking someone to volunteer to do anything is rather sleazy. To put it simply, many people are intimidated by the presence of a police officer and do not feel empowered to say no to an officer’s request.

Right about now, many readers are saying something like Only people with something to hide worry about surveillance and tracking. Follow A this link for an excellent explanation of just why that argument holds no water.

One Response to DNA Dragnet another drag on civil rights?

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