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Forensic DNA Education for Law Enforcement Decisionmakers


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With respect to the concept that familial searching constitutes disproportionate race-based "genetic surveillance," the California experience shows that the safeguards in place prevent this from occurring. Out of well over 10 million opportunities to disclose information that might cause innocent relatives of a candidate offender to be accused or unfairly scrutinized, this never occurred. One offender's name was disclosed; the investigative lead caused the investigation to focus on his father.30

30 Familial searching in the UK, while quite successful, does not necessarily require the use of Y-STRs to confirm the likelihood of a close familial relationship before any names are disclosed to investigators. Instead it appears that the entire list of candidates is provided to investigators, who pursue them as they see fit. Media accounts of some of these investigations reveal that the investigators routinely interview relatives of those on the candidate list for investigative purposes and to seek exclusion/inclusion confirmation samples. While this practice may be successful in the UK, it is unlikely to be adopted in the United States. For one, law enforcement investigative resources are limited. Expecting there to be a follow-up investigation on all relatives of those roughly 168 offenders on the candidate list is too much to ask. When those limited investigative resources are compared to the approximate expense of $40 per Y-STR test, it is clearly more cost-effective to eliminate all, or all but one, of the 168 candidate offenders. In addition, restricting disclosure until there is a Y-STR corroboration addresses many of the privacy concerns expressed to date.

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