The game-changing technology of Rapid DNA, a process of collecting DNA and identifying an individual in less than two hours, is being utilized by a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country, but the testing tool has fueled privacy concerns and potential for misuse, The New York Times reports.
Following passage of the Rapid DNA Act in 2017, law enforcement agencies were allowed to start performing real-time DNA testing at their own booking stations after a suspect was arrested. The previous process involved sending DNA samples to government labs and waiting days, or weeks, for results.
The samples are now instantaneously compared to profiles in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
In Bensalem, Pennsylvania, Detective Glenn Vandegrift called the technology, "groundbreaking," and members of the Rapid DNA team in the Orange County, California, district attorney's office said some robbers were identified "so quickly that they were caught still holding stolen goods," per the Times.
Still, the process is being questioned.
"It's a lot harder to resist the temptation just to run some people's DNA, just to see if there's anything useful that you get out of it," Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University who studies DNA forensics, told the Times.
That approach challenges the "fundamental way we've structured liberty in our constitutional order," she added.
"There are not the same standards and rules and safeguards that are in place for the national database," said Michael Coble, the associate director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. "Who is going to change that? I don't know."