The San Francisco Police Department has used DNA obtained for a woman’s rape kit to later arrest her over a property crime, according to a horrifying announcement from San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Monday. And Boudin suggests this might not be the only case of this happening.
Cops often search DNA databases to compare samples obtained after crimes are committed. But running a DNA sample from the field through a database of sexual assault victims absolutely boggles the mind, which is apparently what happened in at least one case of an unnamed victim who was later arrested based on DNA from her own rape kit.
It’s unclear precisely how many times the shocking tactic, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, has been used by the San Francisco Police, let alone by other police departments across the country.
“Rapes and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing, and traumatic. I am disturbed that victims who have the courage to undergo an invasive examination to help identify their perpetrators are being treated like criminals rather than supported as crime victims,” Boudin said in a statement published on the District Attorney’s Office website.
“We should encourage survivors to come forward—not collect evidence to use against them in the future,” Boudin continued. “This practice treats victims like evidence, not human beings. This is legally and ethically wrong. My office is demanding that this practice end immediately, and is encouraging local and state legislators to introduce legislation to end this practice in California. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to support survivors of sexual violence.”
The use of DNA from victims would almost certainly be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable “search and seizure.” But even if the process was somehow found to be constitutional, it’s just common sense that fewer women would want to come forward to report being victims of rape if they thought their DNA would be used against them.
San Francisco police chief Bill Scott has started an internal investigation, according to KTLA.
“We must never create disincentives for crime victims to cooperate with police, and if it’s true that DNA collected from a rape or sexual assault victim has been used by SFPD to identify and apprehend that person as a suspect in another crime, I’m committed to ending the practice,” Scott said.
At least the cops seem to have recognized what they did as wrong. Will that lead to reform and a complete cessation of the practice? We’re not going to hold our breath on that, given the lack of real reforms passed in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the summer of 2020.