San Francisco DA Says Police Misusing Sexual Assault Survivor DNA
- San Francisco’s district attorney says the SFPD is improperly using sexual assault survivors’ DNA.
- Sexual assault survivors submit their own DNA as part of investigations to find perpetrators.
- The DA’s office says the DNA is being put in a database to catch suspects.
The San Francisco police crime lab has been entering DNA profiles from people who have submitted rape kits into a database used to identify crime suspects, the city’s District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a press release on Monday.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Boudin’s office learned of the practice last week after a woman was linked to a recent property crime by DNA from a rape exam conducted years ago.
Boudin denounced the practice and said he’s concerned it could prevent people from reporting sexual assaults to the police.
“Rapes and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing, and traumatic. I am disturbed that victims who have the courage to undergo an invasive examination to help identify their perpetrators are being treated like criminals rather than supported as crime victims,” Boudin said in the press release.
He called the practice “legally and ethically wrong” and said his office is demanding it end immediately.
—Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) February 14, 2022
The press release said sexual assault survivors submit their own DNA sample during an examination so it can be differentiated from a perpetrator’s DNA that might be found on the victim’s body.
“Sexual assault testing is an invasive and traumatic process for many sexual assault survivors. For this reason, many survivors are reluctant to undergo such a personally invasive process. Victims of sexual assault consent to their DNA collection for this purpose, not so that their DNA will be retained in a local law enforcement database permanently to be searched years later,” the press release said.
Boudin told the Chronicle if a survivor’s DNA is used in anything besides an investigation into their assault, it could be a violation of the state’s Victims’ Bill of Rights as well as the constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure.
The district attorney also told the Chronicle his office is investigating the extent of the practice and if there are other instances where DNA submitted for a sexual assault exam was used to connect someone to a crime.
He said his office believes the database has thousands of DNA profiles collected over many years.
SFPD did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, but Bill Scott, the city’s chief of police, told the Chronicle: “We must never create disincentives for crime victims to cooperate with police, and if it’s true that DNA collected from a rape or sexual assault victim has been used by SFPD to identify and apprehend that person as a suspect in another crime, I’m committed to ending the practice.”