Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for taking DNA samples from virtually all suspects. The New York Times says the “concept leaps far beyond current practice” in the city, collecting DNA just from those convicted of all felonies and some misdemeanors. Bloomberg challenged scientists to invent a portable, suitcase-size device to allow the Police Department to analyze DNA more quickly and thoroughly at the scene of a crime. He would be willing to pay a “six-figure prize” to whoever invents the device.
Important questions about the plans hang in the air. With 375,659 felony and misdemeanor arrests last year, how realistic would it be to test the DNA of everyone charged with a crime? What are the costs and hurdles for implementing a program like this? How quickly can a police force of tens of thousands of officers be trained? Another question is how likely the DNA testing proposal is to pass in the state legislature, especially among those up for re-election and who blocked approval for expanding genetic fingerprinting for those convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors for several years before approving it. John Feinblatt, New York City's criminal justice coordinator, said “very little training” was needed for police officers to learn to do the swabbing; it takes 30 minutes and is more about completing paperwork than taking the swab. He said the program would probably cost about $7 million annually, with kits priced at $4 each.