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NYPD Commissioner defends controversial DNA database, Scotland advances biometrics Bill

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement


Last summer, the NYPD was accused of violating state and civil rights in its efforts to build a biometric DNA database without informing people of their inclusion, but now Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has spoken out in defense of the system, writes the Daily News.

“The NYPD has been erroneously charged with misusing the local DNA database,” he said at a City Council hearing on the police budget. “The DNA samples in the database are never touched, except when a match is found between crime scene evidence for a rape case, for instance, and a suspect.

“Although critics have suggested the NYPD is routinely collecting huge volumes of DNA samples from arrestees,” he continued, “the database only contains about 30,000 suspect DNA exemplars, compared with 1.79 million arrests in the past years.”

Last year, the Times reported that the Local DNA Index System stored the genetic information of some 82,473 thousand people unaware that their information had been collected and stored. Accusations made against the NYPD also claimed the biometrics collection system was racially biased, targeting black and Latino men, and that it had collected mugshots of children as young as 11.

When asked by a councilman about the possibility of innocent, non-guilty people being included in the database, Shea responded the NYPD is “coming up to be more transparent in terms of the policy that’s going to be released,” and that he is “comfortable with where the policy is right now.”

According to First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, some 7,000 to 8,000 people will be taken out of the database in the future.

In Scotland, meanwhile, MSPs are taking a third reading this week at the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill that discusses how law enforcement takes, stores, uses and disposes of personal information including DNA, fingerprints and facial images, writes BBC.

The bill suggests the role of independent commissioner to develop a code of practice and to make sure investigations are carried out in a lawful and ethical manner.

“What we want to do is to give the public reassurance that although the police will continue to use the latest technology to investigate crime, the ethical considerations will also be in the forefront of our minds,” said Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, according to the publication.

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