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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Racial Profiling and Genetic Privacy – Defining the Parameters in Criminal Cases
Press Release

RELEASE: Racial Profiling and Genetic Privacy – Defining the Parameters in Criminal Cases

By Michael Boylan

Read the full report (pdf)

Racial profiling and genetic privacy are two related issues that together present a singular problem for policymakers: How do we reconcile our desire for excellent police work with maintaining criminal investigation protocols that respect the rights of citizens?

Racial profiling has been a widespread police investigative technique that has not drawn very much philosophical attention, though it has been the focus of attention among social scientists. The first part of this paper by CAP Senior Fellow Michael Boylan argues that racial profiling is not an acceptable police procedure because it is an unjustified expression of racism, and because both induction and statistical correlation do not support its use as a tool in police investigation.

In the second part of the paper, DNA testing is examined both as an issue of creating general genetic databases and regarding forced testing of suspects in a police investigation. In the first instance, general databases are rejected because they violate privacy and human dignity and informed consent. In the second instance, forced testing is not allowed for much the same reasons while voluntary testing of suspects, whose past actions dictate that they are reasonably suspected of committing the crime, is permissible.

Boylan then discusses the policy of only using race as a secondary identification factor (analogous to a suspect’s height and weight) alongside voluntary DNA testing of those individuals whose past actions provide reasonable suspicion of their having committed the crime. He argues that the DNA test information should be restricted to the precise and narrow issue at hand and if the suspect is found to be innocent, then the suspect’s DNA profile (and any biological sample) should be destroyed.

To read more on the examination of racial profiling and DNA profiling, click here.