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San Francisco police used rape victim database to identify suspects, prosecutor says

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the alleged practice "legally and ethically wrong."

The San Francisco Police Department is accused of using DNA from sexual assault victims to identify possible crime suspects in a practice that the city’s district attorney called “legally and ethically wrong.”

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement Monday that his office had demanded an immediate end to the alleged practice, which he said “treats victims like evidence, not human beings.”

The DA's office that the police department’s crime lab tried to identify suspects by searching a database with DNA collected from rape and sexual assault victims.

It isn’t clear how long the practice is alleged to have been used or how many suspects are alleged to have been identified using it. 

A spokeswoman for the district attorney did not immediately respond to a request for details about how the alleged practice was discovered. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Boudin said his office was made aware of it last week. 

Chesa Boudin
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks to reporters before his swearing-in ceremony in San Francisco, on Jan. 8, 2020.Jeff Chiu / AP file

Boudin said DNA collected from a rape exam years ago was used to link a woman to a recent property crime, the Chronicle reported.

He added that such a practice could violate the California Victims' Bill of Rights, according to the Chronicle.

The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Associated Press reported that Chief Bill Scott said he had ordered an investigation.

“We must never create disincentives for crime victims to cooperate with police, and if it’s true that DNA collected from a rape or sexual assault victim has been used by SFPD to identify and apprehend that person as a suspect in another crime, I’m committed to ending the practice,” Scott said, according to the AP.

In statements released by the district attorney’s office, local and state officials also said they were working on possible legislation that would halt the use of victim databases to help identify crime suspects.