Brits arresting people to get their DNA on the database

Illustration by Jordan Pote

Police officers are now routinely arresting people in order to add their DNA sample to the national police database, an inquiry has alleged.

The review of the national DNA database by the government’s human genetics commission also raises the possibility that the DNA profiles of three-quarters of young black males, aged 18 to 35, are now on the database.

The human genetics commission report, Nothing to hide, nothing to fear?, says the national DNA database for England and Wales is already the largest in the world, at 5 million profiles and growing, yet has no clear statutory basis or independent oversight…

The commission says the policy of routinely adding the DNA profiles of all those arrested has led to a highly disproportionate impact on different ethnic groups and the stigmatisation of young black men, with the danger of their being seen as “an ‘alien wedge’ of criminality”…

The chairman of the commission, Prof Jonathan Montgomery, said: “It’s now become pretty routine to take DNA samples on arrest. So large numbers of people on the DNA database will be there not because they have been convicted, but because they’ve been arrested.”

He said the commission had received evidence from a former police superintendent that it was now the norm to arrest offenders for everything possible. “It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons, if not the reason, for the change in practice is so that the DNA of the offender can be obtained,” said Montgomery, adding that it would be a matter of very great concern if this was now a widespread practice.

The report…argues the database creates “pre-suspects” who are the first to be checked whenever a new crime is entered. This leads to a “no smoke without fire” culture that may be pervasive and hard to overcome.

This is a chilling admission of how far – everything that civil liberties campaigners feared – has come. A cabal of neo-Nazi police superintendents wasn’t required. Dopey useless politicians – not slimey right-wing nationalists – provided the framework.

There’s even a bit of techno-jargon to cover the process. Function creep.

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