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SF police chief pledges to halt misuse of victims’ DNA to link them with unrelated crimes

San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott said Tuesday he has taken steps to halt his department’s possible misuse of DNA evidence collected from victims of crime, such as rape and sexual assault, to link them as suspects to unrelated crimes.

Following criticism from city, state and federal officials, Scott issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that he shares:

… concerns that such a practice risks having a chilling effect on sexual assault reporting. We must never create disincentives for crime victims or survivors to cooperate with police.”

One week ago, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the practice illegal.

In response, Scott said in a statement released the night of Wednesday, Feb. 16, that he shared Boudin’s concerns and pledged to review the department’s practices and policies collecting DNA evidence.

On Friday, Mano Raju of the city’s Public Defender’s Office said the practice tramples on the public’s constitutionally protected privacy rights and called it an abuse of state power.

On Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that asked him to investigate how police agencies around the country are using such evidence. The letter also urged Wray to review the existing protections in place to ensure the integrity of the federal DNA database.

Later Tuesday, the police department released a statement from Scott shortly before 4 p.m.:

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 added:

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. … We welcome the involvement of our partners at the FBI to review our practices, and 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.”

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