Police in Charlottesville, Va., have temporarily halted asking some black men to voluntarily provide DNA samples as part of the hunt for a serial rapist, Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said yesterday. The Washington Post says that Longo, who is reexamining the months-long policy amid criticism from the black community and others, is confident that the DNA collection will continue once the department develops more “stringent, well-defined criteria” regarding which men will be asked to provide genetic samples.
Charlottesville police have asked 197 black men to submit to cheek swabs as part of the search for a rapist who has attacked at least six women since 1997. Officers were responding to tips about men who resembled a composite sketch of the rapist or who seemed to be acting strangely. A new policy could come as soon as tomorrow, when police, black leaders, city officials, and representatives from the University of Virginia are scheduled to meet.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is preparing a flier to inform black men that they do not have a legal obligation to let police take a DNA sample. The ACLU will not advise people to comply with or refuse the police requests, but is letting them know they have a choice.