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Technology developed by the federal US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon be deployed at police stations across the US, enabling law enforcement to identify and track people “deemed suspicious” and store their DNA in databases of potential criminals. A little background on the system: Its trick is quick, nearly automated processing of DNA. “It’s groundbreaking to have it in the police department,” said Detective Glenn Vandegrift of the Bensalem Police Department, Pennsylvania. “If we can do it, any department in the country can.”
For years, when police wanted to learn whether a suspect’s DNA matched previously collected crime-scene DNA, they sent a sample to an outside lab, then waited a month for results. But in early 2017, the police booking station in Bensalem became the first in the country to install a Rapid DNA machine, which provides results in 90 minutes, and which police can operate themselves. Since then, a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country have begun operating similar machines and analyzing DNA on their own.
In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. However, many legal experts and scientists are troubled by the way the technology is being used. As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.
Because of the accuracy that DNA provides, many entities across the homeland security enterprise have expressed the need for this type of technology. Just who will be trusted with this Rapid DNA technology? Well-trained specialists? Scientists with years of experience analyzing genetic data? No. According to thenewamerican.com’s reports on the subject, the status required for Rapid DNA certification is called “minimally trained.” How many people will resist the reliance on “minimally trained” police to properly collect, handle, store, and protect the DNA of people they and they alone deem “suspicious?”