San Francisco police sued after using rape exam kit to link woman to burglary

San Francisco police sued after using rape exam kit to link woman to burglary

A sexual assault victim whose DNA was used to identify her as a burglary suspect sued the San Francisco Police Department on Monday, with her attorney claiming that the genetic sample she provided to authorities had been “armed against her”.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in a lawsuit filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, was “re-legitimized” by what the lawsuit described as an “unconstitutional” practice used by the police department’s crime lab.

“Survivors of the sexual assault allow the police to use their DNA for one purpose: to find the perpetrator of the sexual assault,” attorney Adante Pointer told reporters. “What we have here are our constitutional rights upside down.”

After the woman was sexually assaulted six years ago, she provided her DNA to police investigators, according to the lawsuit.

The sample was inserted into what internal criminal lab files obtained from the San Francisco Chronicle described as a “quality assurance” database, a system created in 2015 to be used in unrelated criminal cases and to eliminate contamination.

Last December, a police lab criminal analyzed DNA obtained from the scene of an apparent burglary through the database and found that it matched the woman’s DNA, according to the lawsuit.

The criminal provided a forensic report to a police sergeant, who obtained an arrest warrant for the woman based largely on DNA match, according to the lawsuit.

The charges were later dropped, the lawsuit said, and in February former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the practice “legally and ethically wrong” and said it could violate the state’s Charter of Victims’ Rights.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco police declined to comment on Monday’s lawsuit.

In February, Police Chief Bill Scott said he believed the department’s DNA collection practices were compliant with state and national forensic standards. He added that he was initiating an immediate investigation.

Days later, the department ended its policy of sharing rape kit DNA outside the crime lab, the Chronicle reported.

Monday’s lawsuit claims the database has led to “thousands” of cases in which the victims’ DNA was used unconstitutional. It is unclear if there have been any other arrests.

In April, California lawmakers proposed a measure that would ban the practice statewide. It was unclear whether other departments maintained similar databases. According to the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports digital civil liberties, local agencies that collect and store DNA are not subject to the same stringent laws and regulations as federal and state authorities.

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