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Police Chief Suggests Taking
DNA Samples From All Suspects

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The International Association of Police Chiefs says it will urge Congress to require that DNA samples be taken from every person arrested in connection with a crime. Civil rights advocates say that could violate the privacy of innocent people.

Typically, DNA samples are taken only from felons convicted of violent crimes.

But the chiefs on Wednesday proposed that arrested suspects - whether linked to petty theft or murder - also should be required to give DNA samples, which would go into a nationwide FBI database and be made available to law enforcement agencies across the country.

``It's indeed a brave new world,'' Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday. ``We're talking about people who are accused of a crime, but they have not yet had their day in court. A sizable number of them will never be convicted.''

In July, the Justice Department's National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence decided to oppose mandatory DNA testing for anyone charged with a crime. However it urged federal and state prosecutors to use DNA evidence that could exonerate convicts.

DNA, an acid that contains an individual's genetic makeup, is found in almost every cell in the body. Except for identical twins, each person's DNA is unique.

The chiefs did not say what their proposal would cost, but they called it another step forward in DNA technology, which has been credited with clearing dozens of people convicted of murder and rape in recent years.

``With modern technology, we can do a much better job of protecting our citizens and exonerating the innocent,'' said Michael Robinson, director of the Michigan Department of State Police and incoming association president.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrel Stephens said he agreed that the FBI's DNA database of convicted violent felons has been invaluable, but he said the idea of sampling suspects could intrude on the privacy of people who might never be convicted of a crime.

He said DNA collection should be limited ``to specific kinds of arrests, such as for violent crimes or breaking into someone's home.''

Copyright 1999 Associated Press

Posted 12/5/99

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