Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Does Familial DNA Analysis Equate To Racial Profiling?

I came across this article by Mary Sanchez on Midwest Voices regarding an interesting relatively new investigative tool for law enforcement - familial DNA analysis.
For nearly three decades LAPD were stumped by the murders of mostly poor black women, many sexually assaulted, some strangled and shot. When even a special task force couldn’t solve the case, police used DNA taken from the crime scenes and cross-referenced it with DNA of convicted criminals. In June, they hit with a close match, a man who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge.

Close relatives of that man were scrutinized with the serial case in mind. The convicted man’s father came under suspicion. DNA was lifted from a slice of pizza from the father. When that was found to match evidence from the murders, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., 57, was arrested and charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder (one woman escaped after being assaulted and shot.) Franklin lived in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where most of the murders happened, a fact that comes as no surprise to detectives on the case.

Familial DNA analysis is a relatively new form of police work. And lest exuberance over an arrest in this cold case overtake common sense, let’s remember why this kind of sleuthing is and should remain controversial. It raises a fundamental question about privacy. DNA databases exist to link known criminals to other unsolved crimes they have committed, and that’s something we all can live with.

But could the databases and DNA analysis technology be used to put the innocent under suspicion not because of anything they have done but by shared bloodline? Will the fervor to solve crimes, especially horrific serial murders, lead to abuses?
It is my opinion that despite the racial disparacy surrounding convictions, utilization of such techniques are not racially motivated and unfair.  Sanchez makes the argument that since law enforcement has proportionately more DNA samples from blacks and Hispanics then they do whites, the potential for familial DNA analysis to be abused against minorities is far greater.  She makes the point that it places scrutiny on the potentially innocent.  I could not disagree more with this thought.

While some may compare this technique to the controversial immigration law in Arizona, I find that familial DNA analysis is no more controversial then traditional methods of investigation - using technology and biological information to track down leads is probably more colorblind, too. Unfortunately, because of the disparity of race in regards to convictions, familial DNA analysis is currently a stronger investigative tool for minorities...

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