Bill in New York City Aims to Stop Police From Collecting Minors’ DNA

A bill introduced in the New York City Council on Thursday aims to bar the New York Police Department from collecting DNA samples from children without the consent of their parents.

A bill introduced in the New York City Council on Thursday aims to bar the New York Police Department from collecting DNA samples from children without the consent of their parents. Shutterstock

 

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Fauci suggests Americans should skip traditional Thanksgiving gatherings … Voter-approved initiative on car fees struck down by Washington Supreme Court … A third Republican governor won’t endorse Trump in election.

A bill introduced in the New York City Council on Thursday aims to bar police from collecting DNA samples from children prior to their arrest and without the consent of a parent or guardian. The bill makes an exception for collecting DNA from crime scenes or from children who are victims of crime. The council members who sponsored the bill, Donovan Richards and Diana Ayala, said the bill is necessary to end what they call "genetic stop and frisk" that targets Black and Latino New Yorkers. They pointed to examples of times when New York Police Department officers have collected DNA from children as young as 12 through surreptitious means like giving them soda in an interrogation room. “This is about young men like me who are growing up in a neighborhood who are criminalized for their entire life because of these systems that are put in place that are not only discriminatory and biased, but also depict ... young Black and brown minors as criminals. I see this as a major step in opening up the conversation of how do we reimagine policing in our city,” Richards said. The bill comes as a result of a February hearing during which city council members asked about a DNA database containing more than 30,000 DNA profiles used by the NYPD and maintained by the office of the chief medical examiner. About 5% of these profiles belong to children. In February, the NYPD said it would review the database, but defended the practice of collecting DNA, saying that “the use of DNA to solve and prosecute crimes is one vital way we advance justice.” Since then, 20,000 profiles in the database have been flagged for review, 4,000 have been reviewed, and 1,900 have been approved for removal. The NYPD declined to comment on the new bill. Terri Rosenblatt, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society's DNA Unit, said that the bill is only a first step. "While the bill is really laudable in its goal of keeping the NYPD from stealing DNA, we also have to be vigilant in making sure the NYPD then isn’t then trying to go around that by then coercing consent," Rosenblatt said. [Gothamist; The City]

SKIPPING THANKSGIVING | Dr. Anthony Fauci said that Americans should reconsider traditional Thanksgiving plans and instead “evaluate the risk-benefit” of having an indoor gathering with family members from out of town. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that these kinds of usual activities during the holiday season could cause a spike in coronavirus cases. He said that his own Thanksgiving “is going to look very different this year” as he’s asked his children, who live in three separate states, not to travel home for the holiday. "I think given the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition," Fauci said. "Namely, you may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you're pretty certain that the people that you're dealing with are not infected." [CBS; The Hill]

CAR FEES | The Washington Supreme Court ruled a ballot initiative to limit the state’s annual licensing fees on cars is unconstitutional. Renewing a “car tab,” a type of vehicle licensing fee, can cost hundreds of dollars. Last year, voters approved Initiative I-976 to cap the fees at $30. A coalition of local governments claimed the initiative was unconstitutional and misleading, as well as emphasizing that the limits could be devastating for ongoing transportation and transit projects. The court agreed that the initiative’s ballot title, “Limits on Motor Vehicle Taxes and Fees Measure” was “deceptive and misleading” by focusing on lowering car tabs while also rolling back other taxes voters had previously approved. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan celebrated the ruling. “Vehicle license fees are a key tool that funds transit and key safety and maintenance projects including our pothole budget. With the Seattle Department of Transportation facing significant budget challenges in the current economic landscape, this decision will help our city with needed resources to keep our residents and workers moving as we recover from the pandemic,” she said. The state had estimated that the initiative would have cut tax revenue by $4 billion by 2025. [Seattle Times; King 5 News]

REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR | Another Republican governor has said that he won’t support President Donald Trump in his reelection bid. Lizzy Guyton, the communications director for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, said on Wednesday that “the governor cannot support Donald Trump for president.” Baker joins fellow Republican governors Phil Scott of Vermont and Larry Hogan of Maryland in refusing to endorse Trump. In August, Scott said that he wouldn’t be voting for Trump but wasn’t sure yet if he’d be voting for Biden. Hogan on Thursday said he wrote in a vote for the late president Ronald Reagan on his Maryland ballot. [CNN; Washington Post]

TRUMP FLAG | A county employee in Palm Beach, Florida was suspended for flying a Trump flag from a county vehicle. The county said that the employee in the county's engineering department violated rules prohibiting on-duty advocacy for political candidates. "During a heated political season such as the one we find ourselves in now, it is imperative to remember that political activities must be done outside of working hours," County Engineer David Ricks said. [Palm Beach Post]

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to reflect that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan voted for Ronald Reagan this year.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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