Legal Aid Society


City's Rogue DNA Databank Grows by Thousands Despite 20k Eligible for Removal

The Legal Aid Society obtained information from the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) via a recent letter, disclosing that in March the OCME provided the New York City Police Department (NYPD) with names of roughly 20,000 New Yorkers eligible for removal from the City’s rogue DNA index. But despite this list, since March the City’s index has grown by approximately 2,000 individuals, according to the New York Daily News.

Responding to Legal Aid’s call for the City to issue progress reports detailing efforts to reduce the size of its DNA database, Barbara A. Sampson, M.D. Ph.D, Chief Medical Examiner, wrote that “OCME provided NYPD with a list of the approximately 20,000 names in our LDIS Subject Index on March 9, 2020, just prior to the current health pandemic. Over the summer, the NYPD has worked diligently to review this list and has identified profiles for removal.”

Sampson’s letter omits substantial details about the OCME and NYPD’s plans. Sampson does not provide any information about why OCME selected only 20,000 out of the 33,825 profiles. Nor does she say how many of those profiles — if any — the NYPD agreed to remove. Sampson provides no timeline for any removal, process for individuals to appeal determinations, or criteria that either the laboratory or the NYPD are considering. Nor does Sampson explain why, despite identifying 20,000 names to be removed, the NYPD instead grew it by thousands in the past months.

“All of these people are at risk for wrongful DNA matches, invasive testing and sharing of their genetic information with other law enforcement agencies, including, potentially, ICE,” said Terri Rosenblatt, Supervising Attorney of the DNA Unit at The Legal Aid Society.