California will adopt the most aggressive approach in the nation to a controversial crime-fighting technique that uses DNA to try to identify elusive criminals through their relatives, says the Los Angeles Times, quoting state Attorney General Jerry Brown. Employing familial or “partial match” searching, the policy is aimed at identifying a suspect through DNA collected at a crime scene by looking for potential relatives in the state’s genetic database of about a million felons. Once a relative is identified, police can use that person as a lead to trace the suspect.
The plan makes California a leader in such searches, which several states permit but do not vigorously pursue. Colorado has begun to examine its database for relatives of unknown criminals in a research project. Brown said the approach was justified by violent crime plaguing the state. He emphasized that it would be used only when all other leads had been exhausted. “We have 2,000 murders a year in California — that is 10,000 since the Iraq war started — and that is a lot of killing,” Brown said. “When you see it and see the victims and have to go to funerals, it is pretty serious stuff.” Tania Simoncelli of the American Civil Liberties Union called the plan a disappointment. The ACLU is studying its legality. “The fact that my brother committed a crime doesn’t mean I should have to give up my privacy,” she said. At an FBI conference on familial searching, Jeffrey Rosen, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, warned: “I can guarantee if familial searching proceeds, it will create a political firestorm.”