Downtown Non-Profit Sues to Halt DNA Collection from New Yorkers Convicted of No Crime
Above: Protestors take over West Street on July 4, 2020. The Legal Aide Society alleges that many of these demonstrators were subjected to illegal (and secret) DNA collection while they were being interrogated. Below: Critics of DNA collection by the law enforcement estimate that the NYPD has accumulated genetic samples from more than 30,000 New Yorkers.
A non-profit based in Lower Manhattan is suing the City, along with two of its agencies, to halt what it describes as, “the illegal, secret seizure and storage of DNA material from New Yorkers—including children—whom the police suspected of committing a crime without obtaining a warrant or court order.” In addition to naming the City as a defendant, this suit is also aimed at the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).
The Legal Aid Society, headquartered at 199 Water Street, filed suit in April with the United States District Court in Lower Manhattan (as well as in New York State Supreme Court), on behalf of multiple plaintiffs who were arrested and detained on minor offenses during the demonstrations that swept through Lower Manhattan, following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, 2020.
The Legal Aid Society alleges that DNA was secretly collected by NYPD detectives with whom its clients interacted. The suit argues that this collection took place without the knowledge or consent of these plaintiffs, most often by bringing them into interrogation rooms that had been prepared in advance to capture saliva, skin cells, or other genetic material. In that controlled environment, detectives routinely offer cigarettes or drinks to the people they are interviewing, later retrieving these and extracting genetic material. In one instance cited by the Legal Aid Society, detectives handed a 12-year-old boy a McDonald’s soda. After the boy drank from it and was escorted out the room, they secretly removed the straw for DNA testing and placed the child’s DNA in the Suspect Index. (New York State law explicitly forbids police from cataloging the DNA of minors, and broadly limits the retrieval of DNA from people of any age without their consent or a judge’s order.)
The suit contends that DNA profiles stored in the Suspect Index are “put in a perpetual ‘genetic lineup,’ and compared to DNA evidence taken from practically any past or future investigation—all without obtaining a warrant or court order, and in blatant contradiction of New York State law, which prohibits the indexing of a person’s DNA unless they have been convicted of a crime.”
“Thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom are Black and brown, and many of whom have never been convicted of any crime, are illegally in the City’s rogue DNA database,” says Phil Desgranges, supervising attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice at the Legal Aid Society. “This database operates virtually unchecked, and despite promises from the City to reduce its size, the database has continued to grow at the expense of communities of color. We simply cannot trust the NYPD to police itself, and we look forward to judicial review of these destructive practices to bring our clients the justice they deserve.” Current projections estimate that the Suspect Index contains DNA from more than 30,000 New Yorkers.
Critics of genetic collection by law enforcement note with alarm that NYPD has begun deploying a new forensic technology, called Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG), which uses DNA to map out a family tree for any person whose cells are collected. Such a database becomes vastly more powerful by including samples from large numbers of people not suspected of a crime, simply because any of them might someday be identified as a family member of a person who is.
“This new technology creates an incentive for the NYPD to secretly collect and store as much ‘suspect DNA’ as possible,” the Legal Aid Society argues, “because that person’s DNA may turn out to be genetically related to DNA collected at a crime scene and investigated using IGG. The City’s use of this investigative method is shrouded in complete secrecy and free from any safeguards.”
Ironically, one group that is categorically protected from this kind of genetic surveillance appears to be police officers themselves. In spite of the fact that the federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has recommended that all law enforcement personnel place their DNA in an “elimination database” to avoid contamination by officers who come into frequent contact with crime scenes, police unions have consistently blocked this recommendation, citing privacy concerns over storing officers’ DNA in a database.
Fleet Week Parade of Ships
This Morning, 7:30am-9am, on the Hudson River
The Fleet Week Parade of Ships returns after a two-year hiatus, signaling the start of Fleet Week in New York City. This morning, watch for half a dozen military ships to sail up the Hudson River in formation, including USS Bataan (LHD-5; an amphibious assault ship from Norfolk, Virginia), USS Milwaukee (LCS-5; a freedom-class littoral combat ship from Mayport, Florida), HMS Protector (A173; United Kingdom), U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol Craft (from Annapolis, Maryland), USCGC Dependable (a medium endurance cutter from Virginia Beach, Virginia), and USCGC Sycamore (a seagoing buoy tender from Newport, Rhode Island). Over the next few days, members of the public will be able to tour the ships. For details about where the ships will be docked, and a listing of Fleet Week events throughout the City, click here.
Waves of Woe
Jet Ski Accident Claims One Life, Injures Second Passenger, in Waters Off Battery Park City
A waterborne outing on the first summer-like weekend of the season ended in tragedy on Saturday evening in Battery Park City.
‘A Bold, Progressive, and Unapologetic Voice For Our Communities’
Yuh-Line Niou Announces Candidacy for Newly Created Lower Manhattan Congressional District
In the wake of a decision about Congressional district lines announced last week by the court-appointed Special Master charged with drawing new, less partisan boundaries, State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has announced her candidacy to represent Lower Manhattan in the United States House of Representatives. Ms. Niou is seeking to represent in Washington the newly created Tenth Congressional District, which includes Lower Manhattan (roughly below 14th Street) and parts of Kings County, stretching from Downtown Brooklyn, south to Sunset Park.
[Re: ‘A Bold, Progressive, and Unapologetic Voice for Our Communities,’ May 23, 2022]
To the editor,
Thanks for the article about Yuh-Line Niou, a corruption-free political leader who represents the interests of regular New Yorkers and is the most responsive representative that downtown Manhattan has ever had! We’re lucky to have replaced Sheldon Silver with such a dedicated public servant, who has repeatedly stood up for the needs of New Yorkers and ethical behavior. Can’t wait for her to do us proud by representing us in the US Congress!
To the editor,
Her twitter was hateful to the NYPD, and she backed the rioters and looters who ripped downtown apart. And we are still living in the aftermath.
Back to the Store of the Future
Renowned Discounter Announces Return to Storied Temple of Commerce
The family behind the iconic shopping brand, Century 21, has announced that the Platonic ideal of off-priced luxury retail will return to its longtime sanctuary at 25 Church Street (between Cortland and Dey Streets) in the spring of next year.
Meet at the intersection of Broadway, Battery Place, and State Street
Join experienced birding guide Gabriel Willow on a walk through The Battery to observe the diversity of migrating birds that visit the park.
Launch of the South Street Seaport Museum Summer Sailing Season
The South Street Seaport Museum kicks off the sailing season for the historic schooner Pioneer and tug W.O. Decker with the ceremonial ringing of the lightship Ambrose bell by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo, followed by remarks from VIPs and then the first public sail of the year.
Observe and sketch the human figure. Each week a model will strike short and long poses for participants to draw. An artist/educator will offer constructive suggestions and critique. Drawing materials provided. Free.
First concert in a series of two evening concerts. The concerts will feature ten short musical pieces arranged by Polish political prisoners who were members of the men’s orchestra in the Auschwitz I camp. Using popular German hits of the 1930s and 40s, they arranged and orchestrated these tangos, waltzes, and foxtrots for a dance band that played Sunday concerts for the Auschwitz garrison near the camp commandant’s villa. The musical pieces were recently rediscovered in the archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. Led by conductor Oriol Sans, a University of Michigan student orchestra will perform the original musical pieces interspersed with lines, spoken by the singers, from testimonies and interviews with members of the Auschwitz I men’s orchestra after the war. Silent for more than seventy years, the voices and stirring melodies of those imprisoned at Auschwitz will be brought to life in the Museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall. Free; suggested $10 donation.
On the eve of Ascension Day, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra perform an all-Bach concert conducted by Avi Stein. Exploring the full emotional range of the human experience, from anguish to elation and from despair to hope, Ascendit presents Bach’s Ascension Oratorio, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, cantata Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, and motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. Free.
Latin social dance workshop with Ballet Hispánico, one of the nation’s largest Latinx dance organizations. This all ages dance session features Tempo Alegre playing salsa, merengue, Afro-Cuban and other Latinx music that will get you up and moving! Free.
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC.
$2.00 per notarized signature.
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall St
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South Street, between Fulton & John Streets
Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturday 11:30am-5pm, May through Thanksgiving
Today in History
Painting by Anton von Werner of theologian Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521
567 BC – Servius Tullius, king of Rome, celebrates victory over the Etruscans.
240 BC – First recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
1521 – Conclusion of the Diet of Worms. One of the meanings of the word “diet” is a formal deliberative assembly, where discussion and negotiation is conducted. One of the most famous Diets concluded on this day in 1521 in the German city of Worms. During the Diet of Worms, which began on January 28, 1521, theologian Martin Luther was asked to renounce his Ninety Five Theses. When he refused, Emperor Charles V issued the Edict of Worms, which excommunicated Luther.
1738 – A treaty between Pennsylvania and Maryland ends the Conojocular War with settlement of a boundary dispute and exchange of prisoners.
1878 – Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore opens at the Opera Comique in London.
1925 – John T. Scopes is indicted for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in Tennessee.
1961 – U.S. President John F. Kennedy announces his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
1977 – Chinese government removes a decade-old ban on William Shakespeare’s work, effectively ending the Cultural Revolution started in 1966.
1979 – Six-year-old Etan Patz sets off for the school bus stop two blocks from his SoHo home, and disappears. His body is never found. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designates May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day.
2020 – George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, is killed by police while restrained in custody during an arrest in Minneapolis, MN
1334 – Emperor Sukō of Japan (d. 1398)
1803 – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and philosopher (d. 1882)
1929 – Beverly Sills, American soprano and actress (d. 2007)
615 – Pope Boniface IV (b. 550)
675 – Li Hong, Chinese prince (b. 652)
1632 – Adam Tanner, Austrian mathematician and philosopher (b. 1572)
1954 – Robert Capa, Hungarian photographer and journalist (b. 1913)