San Francisco police will stop using DNA from rape victims to investigate unrelated crimes

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Police Department is no longer using the DNA of sexual assault survivors and other victims to investigate unrelated crimes, officials said Wednesday.

The department’s crime lab ended the practice shortly after receiving a complaint from the district attorney’s office and formally changed its operating procedure on Friday, Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the police chief, said Wednesday. of San Francisco, Bill Scott.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin said last week he became aware of the “opaque practice” after prosecutors found a report among hundreds of pages of evidence in the case against a woman recently charged with a property crime. The documents referred to a DNA sample taken from the woman during a 2016 rape investigation.

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Charges against the woman have since been dropped.

The revelation that the San Francisco police crime lab used a sexual assault victim’s DNA against her in an unrelated property crime case – and the allegation that it may be a practice common in California – has caused a national outcry among law enforcement, legal experts, lawmakers and advocates.

RELATED: SF DA drops case against woman linked to property crime using DNA from her 2016 rape kit

On Tuesday, US Congressman Adam Schiff, D-California, wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him to investigate “deeply concerning” reports that DNA samples from sexual assault victims had were sought against DNA samples from crime scenes. Schiff also asked Wray if there were any ways to prevent victims’ DNA from being uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System – or CODIS.

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“While there are still many unanswered questions about the extent of this practice, the fact that it may have occurred is deeply disturbing. I fear it is having a chilling effect on reports of sexual assault,” Schiff wrote.
Fewer than 23% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2020, down from nearly 34% in 2019, according to the Justice Department’s Criminal Victimization Survey.

RELATED: DA: SFPD’s Use of DNA Rape Kit to Arrest Victim Linked to Another Crime May Be Unconstitutional

In a statement released in response to Schiff’s letter to the FBI, Scott said he has taken steps to end the possible misuse of DNA evidence collected from crime victims.

“I share Rep. Schiff’s concerns that such a practice may have a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual assaults. We must never discourage victims or survivors of crime from cooperating with the police,” said Scott in a statement.

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