Legal Aid Society


Broken Promises: City Makes Little Progress on Expunging Rogue DNA Index

The Legal Aid Society condemned the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and City Hall for failing to sufficiently reform the City’s DNA collection and storage practices, and expunge DNA profiles from its rogue DNA database, as promised last February at a New York City Council oversight hearing on the matter, reports POLITICO New York.

Since its promise to reform the DNA database at last year’s City Council hearing, the City has added more than 2,000 new DNA profiles, bringing the total number of profiles to 33,807. As of the Council hearing last February, the City had 32,000 profiles in its database. The total number of additional profiles reflects that, while some profiles have been removed, many more were added.

This data also shows that, as of February 1, 2021, the NYPD, whose officers collect the DNA from New Yorkers, identified 2,826 profiles to OCME, the agency charged with managing the database, for removal. However, OCME has removed fewer than half of those profiles, and for last month alone, OCME added more than 200 profiles to the database.

At this rate, it would take years for the City to meaningfully reduce the size of its database.

In the past year, the City removed 1,042 profiles from its rogue index. If only those removals happened, without any new additions to the rogue, unregulated index, the total would be 30,958.

But instead, the current databank total of 33,807 profiles – even with those removals – reveals that the City actually added 2,849 profiles in the last year.

It is unknown how many of these newly added individuals were people involved in this summer’s George Floyd protests, which resulted in hundreds of arrests. It also is unknown how many of these samples were taken from children or through the NYPD’s surreptitious collection program. Additionally, the number of profiles that the NYPD agreed should be removed is far less than the more than 8,000 people who are in the City index but never were convicted of a crime and the more than 1,600 children.

“A year ago, the NYPD promised to reform its shameful practice of collecting and indexing DNA from people — including children as young as 12 — who have not been convicted of a crime,” said Terri Rosenblatt, Supervising Attorney of the DNA Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “These numbers show that the NYPD can’t be trusted. Legislators must act now to end genetic stop and frisk, which disproportionately culls the DNA of Black and Latinx people, by shutting down the city’s rogue DNA index.”