Going Local: The Fragmentation of Genetic Surveillance
65 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2015 Last revised: 30 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 28, 2015
The FBI’s two-decade-long dominance of the use of genetic surveillance for law enforcement purposes is ending. In its place, local police departments are creating DNA databases that operate outside of the FBI’s national DNA database network. These local databases, which until now have remained unexamined, promise local law enforcement agencies freedom from the federal laws and regulations that govern the FBI’s national network. This Article relies on original qualitative empirical research to describe why agencies created local databases and how these databases operate. It finds that while local DNA databases offer promise as a crime-solving tool, they generate harms that so far have been ignored. These harms include exacerbating racial inequities, threatening privacy and dignity interests, and undermining the legitimacy of the police. Because law enforcement agencies have not internalized these harms, the self-imposed regulations that currently restrain law enforcement’s use of local DNA databases are insufficient. This Article proposes several modest, yet effective, reforms that will minimize the harms generated by local DNA databases, while at the same time preserving law enforcement’s ability to wield this tool.
Keywords: DNA, DNA databases, FBI, genetic surveillance, local law enforcement, reform
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