Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 14, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

DNA TESTING....CNN has a story this morning about Timothy Longo, the police chief of Charlottesville, who has been collecting DNA samples from black men to try and identify a serial rapist:

As of Monday, Longo said, 690 men have been eliminated from the list of possible suspects and 10 have refused to submit to a swab test, in which DNA is collected from a potential suspect's cheek.

One woman in the audience asked if the police would conduct widespread testing of white men if the rapist were white.

"Absolutely," Longo said, adding that he'd do the same if a criminal suspect were Asian or a woman. "I will do them all."

This is not the first time this has happened. In 2000 police in Australia tested the entire adult male population of Wee Waa in an effort to catch a rapist, and similar mass testings have occurred in Britain and New Zealand.

I'm not normally a big fan of slippery slope arguments, but this seems like a case where extreme caution is called for. It's true that DNA serves a useful purpose both in clearing innocent suspects and convicting guilty ones, but mass testing is troublesome. After all, do you think those 10 men in Charlottesville who refused to provide a sample are under increased suspicion now? It would be naive to think otherwise. But should they be?

DNA databases are all the rage these days, and it's not a subject I've given a lot of thought to. Maybe I should start.

Kevin Drum 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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