San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin accused the city’s police department of using rape victims’ DNA to “incriminate” them in unrelated crimes, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Boudin said the San Francisco police crime lab has been entering victims’ DNA profiles in a database used to identify suspects of crimes.
He did not say how many cases there may be but said that he learned of the practice after a woman was arrested using DNA from a rape kit from five years earlier when she was the victim of domestic sexual abuse.
Boudin said the practice may violate state constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure and California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights.
Boudin warned that such practices could also deter rape victims from coming forward.
“The primary concern that I and my office have ... is with detecting and preventing future crime,” Boudin said. “We want San Francisco to be as safe as possible, (and) we want survivors of sexual assault to feel comfortable and safe reporting and cooperating with law enforcement.”
Boudin said his office is investigating the scope of the practice.
“I think the questions raised by our district attorney today are sufficiently concerning that I have asked my assistant chief for operations to work with our Investigations Bureau to thoroughly review the matter, and report back to me and to our D.A.’s office partners,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement.
Scott said the woman may have been identified through a DNA match in a non-victim DNA database.
Still, Scott said, “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.”
San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen said that she has asked the city attorney’s office to draft legislation to prevent DNA or any other evidence from a victim’s rape kit from being used to investigate anything other than the rape.
“Now that I know that it is an issue I want to stop it immediately in San Francisco,” she said. “But I think that this should not be done at any level of government, anywhere.”
State Sen. Scott Wiener said the practice was “extremely troubling.”
“If necessary, I’ll seriously consider introducing state legislation to ban the practice,” he said.