City’s Unregulated DNA Database Keeps Growing: Attorneys

By Eric Klein
eklein@bronxjusticenews.com

New York City’s unregulated citizen DNA database has ballooned to include more than 33,800 genetic profiles—2,000 more than the NYPD disclosed in February, the Legal Aid Society announced this week.

The city’s DNA database includes thousands of genetic samples procured by the NYPD, but few details about the city’s collection methodology – or whose DNA is kept on file – have been made public.

In a February hearing, the NYPD promised it would remove from the index people who have not been convicted of any crime, while also cutting down on the genetic stop-and-frisk tactics that ensnared them in the first place, according to defense attorneys.

During the hearing, NYPD officials admitted that at least 5 percent of the DNA in index came from children, and also said a portion of that DNA was collected surreptitiously or without parental consent, Legal Aid lawyers said.

“Six months ago we shared with the City our clients’ and their families’ concerns that if lawmakers refused to shut down the City’s rogue DNA index, it would only grow larger, more secretive, and more racially biased,” said Terri Rosenblatt, Supervising Attorney of the DNA Unit at Legal Aid. “That is exactly what has happened. It is time for the City to stop secretly stealing and cataloging DNA from Black and Latinx young people.”

The DNA database is not regulated by any city or state government oversight bodies, and defense attorneys have sued to stop the NYPD from collecting samples for storage, alleging racial bias.

A proposed state law would require New York City to expunge all records stored in the database.

The bill, sponsored by state Senator Brad Hoylman and co-sponsored by state Senators Julia Salazar and Andrew Gounardes, would clarify that the only DNA identification index authorized under current  law is the one overseen by the state. It would also prohibit local governments from establishing or maintaining their own DNA databases.

Kevin Deutsch contributed reporting. 

About Eric Klein 74 Articles
Eric Klein is an editor for Bronx Justice News. Born and bred in the Bronx, he lives on the Grand Concourse, where at least one member of his family has resided every year since the 1930s. Eric has two sons and, like them, is a die-hard New York Yankees fan.