Suffolk DA calls for legislation to allow law enforcement to use NY's DNA data bank

A controversial crime fighting tool called "familial DNA" is on hold in New York because it was never approved by the Legislature.

News 12 Staff

May 9, 2022, 9:55 PM

Updated 710 days ago

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A controversial crime fighting tool called "familial DNA" is on hold in New York because it was never approved by the Legislature.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney is calling for legislators to write a law that would allow police and detectives to do searches of the state's DNA bank.
Familial DNA allows agencies to search for biological relatives of people whose DNA was left at a crime scene.
It was used to crack a 42-year-old cold case for the first time ever in Suffolk County in March. Irene Wilkowitz felt she was finally brought some peace in the case of her sister, Eve Wilkowitz's, disappearance after finally knowing who the killer was.
"I have lived these past 42 years afraid all the time that I was going to be next," Irene Wilkowitz says.
The technology was also used to identify a Gilgo Beach victim from a DNA match from her aunt.
However, privacy and discrimination concerns have been raised about law enforcement agencies using familial DNA.
Jenny Cheung, supervisor attorney of the DNA Unit with The Legal Aid Society, released a statement, saying part: "We laud this decision, which affirms our serious constitutional, privacy and civil rights concerns around familial searching, a technique that disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx New Yorkers.
Some Black men who challenged using this kind of technology were concerned that they could be targeted because their biological family members committed crimes.
Tierney says the technology also allows people to be absolved from cases.
"It's an ability to also exonerate individuals because this DNA, as it includes people, it excludes people as well."
The ruling is only for DNA databases that samples people convicted of crimes.
It does not apply to private companies like 23andme or ancestry.com.


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