By Scott Tibbs, May 9, 2012
The Washington Post bemoaned a decision in Maryland that police cannot take DNA samples from people when they are arrested, using some strange logic in the process. I addressed the issue of DNA testing back in 2009 when the Indiana Legislature was considering it. It is important to remember that arrested is not the same as convicted, and we should be wary of the police setting up a database with DNA samples from people arrested but not convicted.
The Post is alarmed that this practice could hurt efforts to fight crime, but that is dismissed easily enough. There is nothing preventing police from seeking a court order to take DNA from someone, so the samples can still be collected, analyzed and used as evidence. It is also less expensive to only test those who actually need to be tested. In a nation founded for the purpose of protecting individual liberty from abuses by the state, protecting due process and limiting the government's ability to collect sensitive data should not be regarded as a problem.
The Post's logic becomes truly bizarre when the editorial board argued that the DNA testing is fine because jails are allowed to strip search prisoners. Really? Is the Washington Post really arguing that because government overreaches in one area, then other overreaches are fine? By that logic, why not require every person in the country (or in the state of Maryland, in this case) to submit a DNA sample so it can be used to investigate crime?
People are right to be concerned about crime, especially violent crime. But people also need to be wary of their government, especially regarding abuse of power. Government has far more capacity to do harm than criminals, even organized crime. Let's not become paranoid and foolishly throw away our liberty to protect us from the Boogeyman.