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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

April 08, 2004
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Chicago Police Push Bill To Widen DNA Bank

Chicago Tribune

Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors are trying to drum up support for a proposed law that would require anyone arrested for a felony to give up a DNA sample that would be put into a database.

Although the bill overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House last month, a spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) has said the chances of it coming up for a Senate vote aren't good.

Still, Chicago police officials pointed to a similar measure in Virginia, which last year began taking DNA from people arrested on felony charges. The measure solved 81 crimes, including taking 21 rapists off the street, said Michael Monahan, special counsel to Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline.

"DNA from arrestees will solve hundreds of unsolved murders and rapes while preventing thousands in the future," Cline said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said retrieving DNA after arrests could rule out innocent people more quickly and make sure dangerous offenders are off the streets, said Jerry Lawrence a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.

"A crucial component of the justice system is to identify the guilty and protect the innocent. DNA can do this more reliably than fingerprints, which have been taken at booking of arrests for years," Lawrence said.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and the state appellate defender's office oppose the measure. They argue that taking a DNA sample after every felony arrest is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, said Kathy Saltmarsh, a legislative liaison for the appellate defender's office.

They said the bill should be limited to arrests in serious violent offenses. Also, the bill should allow a judge to decide if a sample should be taken, Saltmarsh said.

"It's way too broad," she said. "The right to privacy is of greater concern than any benefit that it would have to law enforcement."

The state is already overwhelmed by a DNA evidence backlog, Saltmarsh said. Currently, convicted felons must give up a DNA sample in prison. Officials are still taking samples from prisoners.

The state also has a backlog of more than 1,000 untested rape kits, in which DNA and other evidence from a victim or crime scene are collected.

This week, federal officials said more than 540,000 DNA samples have not been tested. Of these, 162,000 are from rape cases and 52,000 are from homicide cases, according to a study released by the National Institute of Justice.






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