Legal Aid Society


NYPD Continues Use of Controversial Private DNA Lab

The Legal Aid Society is sounding the alarm after it was revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) is still using a controversial DNA lab more than a year after the City had claimed to have cut ties with the facility, as reported by the New York Daily News.

Parabon NanoLabs creates “virtual mugshots” of suspects using a technique called “phenotyping,” which can indicate things like hair and skin color. Advocates question the reliability of this work and how police apply these findings.

Terri Rosenblatt, who leads The Legal Aid Society’s DNA Unit points to one high-profile case in New York City as an example.

“They got information that a Black person committed the crime … and what they did with that was go out and round up 500 Black men and take their DNA,” she said.

That the facility is also private, which removes elements of oversight and transparency which are critical to protecting the ways that people’s DNA is being used by the NYPD.

“If you are a private lab, you are subject to less transparent scrutiny than a public lab,” said Rosenblatt. “Department of Health reviewed whatever they reviewed from Parabon. They have not been transparent. It’s unsettling.”

“The only person or entity saying that Parabon services work is Parabon and the cops they work with,” she continued. “They are not giving anything over, so it’s not just transparency that’s the problem … How many people are being wrongly investigated?”