SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is denouncing the use of rape and sexual assault victim DNA evidence in searching for possible crime suspects.
According to the DA’s office, Boudin recently learned of a law enforcement database that has DNA collected from sexual assault victims to help identify suspects.
Boudin’s office says, “the crime lab attempts to identify crime suspects by searching a database of DNA evidence that contains DNA collected from rape and sexual assault victims.”
The DA condemned this practice on Monday and says he is committed to working with law enforcement to stop this.
“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. We should encourage survivors to come forward—not collect evidence to use against them in the future. 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.”District Attorney Chesa Boudin
In response, San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott released this statement:
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.
I am informed that our existing DNA collection policies have been legally vetted and conform with state and national forensic standards. However, there are many important principles for which the San Francisco Police Department stands that go beyond state and national standards. We have long embraced sanctuary for our undocumented immigrant communities, for example, and we years ago ended the practice of using condoms as evidence in prostitution cases.
We will immediately begin reviewing our DNA collection practices and policies. I have engaged with our City Attorney on this issue, and we are committed to working with our partners at Cal DOJ’s Collaborative Reform Initiative, our District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Police Commission and community-based working group members to pursue any changes necessary that are worthy of our values of “Safety with Respect.”
Although I am informed of the possibility that the suspect in this case may have been identified through a DNA hit in a non-victim DNA database, I think the questions raised by our District Attorney today are sufficiently concerning that I have asked my Assistant Chief for Operations to work with our Investigations Bureau to thoroughly review the matter, and report back to me and to our D.A.’s office partners.
Whatever disagreements District Attorney Boudin and I may have, we agree that this issue needs to be addressed. At the end of the day, our respective departments exist to do justice for victims of crime. The last thing we should ever do is discourage their cooperation with us to accomplish that.Chief of Police Bill Scott
In addition, State Senator Scott Wiener and Supervisor Hillary Ronen also released statements on the matter:
“Sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can undergo. Coming forward after a sexual assault to provide a rape kit can be re-traumatizing. Too many people decide not to take that step, given the trauma. Yet survivors can at least be assured — or so they thought — that the sample they provide for a rape kit will only be used for the sexual assault investigation and not misused for other purposes. If survivors believe their DNA may end up being used against them in the future, they’ll have one more reason not to participate in the rape kit process. That’s why I’m working with the DA’s office to address this problem through state legislation, if needed.”State Senator Scott Wiener
“There are already enormous barriers for victims of rape to come forward to report the crime. Any DNA evidence collected from victims of rape must not be used for any other purpose than investigating the rape itself and of course must never be used against the victim herself. I have asked to the City Attorney to draft legislation to prevent DNA evidence—or any sort of evidence from a victim’s rape kit—to be used for anything other than investigating that rape. Rape victims’ DNA should be protected at all levels of government, anywhere.”District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen