After a week-long public relations disaster over misuse of DNA evidence from rape kits, the SFPD announced Tuesday that it will end the practice, but it makes you wonder how many police departments nationwide are doing this.
In the eight days since news broke that the San Francisco Police Department used DNA from a rape victim’s rape kit to accuse her of an unrelated property crime, there’s been vocal outage over the practice at the local, state, and national levels. Supervisor Hillary Ronen immediately announced she was “Drafting legislation to prevent this practice in SF,” State Senator Scott Wiener said he would “seriously consider introducing state legislation” to bar this, and on Tuesday, Rep. Adam Schiff sent a letter to the FBI asking them to investigate the practice.
BREAKING:— Demian Bulwa (@demianbulwa) February 14, 2022
San Francisco police linked a woman to a crime using DNA collected from her past rape exam, according to DA Chesa Boudin https://t.co/EQsqwyWoIq
The SFPD was surely playing defense on this one, and not looking good doing so. That’s probably why on Tuesday, SFPD Chief Bill Scott announced the department would no longer use rape kit DNA in unrelated investigations
“Last week’s revelations caused me to take immediate steps to halt any possibility of a misuse of DNA profiles of victims and survivors moving forward,” Scott said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “We are still in the process of reviewing the underlying case, and our comprehensive review of SFPD’s Forensic Science Division’s DNA policies and practices also remains underway at this time.”
“Legally and ethically wrong.” The San Francisco district attorney's office dropped charges against a sexual assault victim who was tied to a crime through DNA she had submitted for a rape kit. https://t.co/vRvMJEiKFL— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 16, 2022
District Attorney Chesa Boudin immediately dropped the charges against this Jane Doe, who had her DNA from a 2016 rape case used to identify her on a recent felony property crime. The international attention certainly put unwelcome heat on the SFPD, but it seems the Adam Schiff FBI letter may have been the final straw.
“We welcome the involvement of our partners at the FBI to review our practices,” Chief Scott’s statement added. “We are committed to working with Rep. Schiff on any federal legislation necessary to clarify or strengthen protections for DNA profiles voluntarily submitted to police for the purposes of solving crimes.”
A rape victim’s DNA from a rape kit should never be used against the victim herself. It’s hard enough to come forward to report a rape knowing your own life will be judged and scrutinized. Drafting legislation to prevent this practice in SF. https://t.co/d2BaUdo6NZ— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) February 15, 2022
To be clear, no one “welcomes the involvement” of the FBI into their workplace practices. It’s fair to predict that Sup. Ronen, Sen. Wiener, and Rep. Schiff will continue their legislative efforts to outlaw this practice, as Scott’s statement was sort of a non-binding promise, with a standard promised “comprehensive review of SFPD’s Forensic Science Division’s DNA policies and practices.”
But when even The Onion is doing satirical articles about your police department's policies and practices, odds are you have found yourself very much on the wrong side of public opinion.
Image: @SFPDChief via Twitter