The San Francisco district attorney’s stunning claim that California crime labs are using DNA from sexual assault survivors to investigate unrelated crimes shocked prosecutors nationwide, the Associated Press reports. District Attorney Chesa Boudin said he became aware of the “opaque practice” last week after prosecutors found a report among hundreds of pages of evidence in the case against a woman recently charged with a felony property crime. The papers referred to a DNA sample collected from the woman during a 2016 rape investigation. The San Francisco Chronicle said the woman was tied to a burglary in late 2021 during “a routine search” of a San Francisco Police Department crime lab database. The match came from DNA gathered from the same laboratory listed in a report on the sexual assault. Boudin said crime lab director Mark Powell told his office the practice was a standard procedure.
Several other law enforcement agencies in California and elsewhere around the U.S. pushed back against Boudin’s assertion that it was a common practice. New York Police Department Detective Sophia Mason said the agency “does not enter victims’ DNA profiles into databases or use them in unrelated investigations.” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said: “Certainly the [L.A.] department does not do that.” District attorneys in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sacramento counties also swatted down the suggestion, as did representatives from San Diego police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department crime lab and others. In Oakland, law enforcement uses sexual assault victim DNA only “in the context of the case for which the evidence was submitted, not to investigate other cases.”