Jeffery Johnson, 47, a cook in Charlottesville, Va., was recently asked at work to provide a DNA sample because he was “potential suspect” in a string of brutal rapes over seven years. The Washington Post reports that he is among 197 black men who have been asked to provide genetic samples. The Post says the so-called DNA dragnet has caused racial tensions and raised questions about civil liberties and human rights; some say the DNA sampling smacks of racial profiling.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. and chief prosecutor David Chapman say they are doing everything possible to catch a man who has terrorized the community. After the practice was criticized at a community meeting on the University of Virginia campus Monday, they said they would review the massive DNA sampling.
Longo said he is sensitive to the concerns of the community but that he also wants desperately to stop a rapist who has attacked at least six women. DNA sweeps have generated controversy, across the country and in England. Last year, Baton Rouge, La., police took DNA samples from about 1,000 men as they sought a serial killer.
Kent Willis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said authorities have cast too broad a net and has asked police to develop “more precise criteria” about which men to approach.
Longo says that the DNA sampling is not racial profiling because several victims identified the rapist as a black man. If the rapist were white, he said, his officers would be swabbing the cheeks of white men.