Monday, November 13, 2006

Bad DNA & dodgy coppers

Rightyo. I threw the lib dem DNA link in at the end of the cowboys post as an afterthought, didn't think too much about it. As such, I didn't really say all too much about it.

Going by the response, I think I ought to say a bit more.

Perhaps I'm naive or see things too simply. Perhaps I don't subscribe to the big brother government conspiracy theory, where the government is determined to monitor each and every one of us. Incompetent maybe, conspiracy no.

My thoughts on DNA are simple. As far as I'm concerned, DNA is simply held on a database awaiting comparison samples from crime scenes. If someone would like to show me anything which indicates it is not, I'm all ears. But until then, I cannot see a problem with DNA samples being retained from persons arrested whether subsequently proved guilty or otherwise. And in the majority of cases it shall never be used as the majority of people don't go around committing crime.

However, Say a person is arrested for something minor- a scrap on the street, a road traffic offence or whatever, and the case is subsequently not proved, i.e. they are innocent. If the DNA sample taken on arrest from just this one person is subsequently matched to a nasty crime and that person is taken out of society, then to me it is worth it.

I have read reports from my force intranet pages- where things like that have happened, including one where a male who had raped a grandmother was subsequently identified. I don't know if the offence he was originally arrested for went through to court. But say he wasn't, is there really anyone who says that he should be allowed to carry on in society?

I know most people, certainly the ones who read this, will quite rightly point out that they would never be in that position and such we (the police) don't need their DNA. And I would agree. However. How do you predict the future? How do you distinguish the honest mistake from the devious intent? Answer: you can't. Which is why I think the status quo should remain. The majority of law abiding people don't get themselves arrested anyway. But every person ever arrested, whether it be a person with no ID unfortunate enough to speed in front of a traffic officer on a grumpy day; or someone who hacked someone's head off in the street with an axe (I've seen both go through my custody suite) will go through those first initial steps in front of me or whoever is in the custody suite. Fingerprints, photograph, DNA. And every time I explain to them the concept of a speculative search against existing crime scene marks. And every rare once in a while, you get a result.

In a nutshell: I believe DNA should be retained because I want to catch bad guys. The day someone shows me that the government is doing anything other than retaining them for comparison then I will most likely change my mind. But no-one has shown me anything yet.

As for ID cards. I completely fail to see the point in them. Everyone has an ID number already. It's called their NI number. ID cards will be pretty much useless in real day to day policing unless it's an offence to not carry one. And I would resolutely disagree with that.

Finally. I appreciate DNA is an emotive issue. However, look again at that Cowboys post and tell me which is more likely to affect you. A bad cop, who is a poor driver, a poor investigator, and a poor representative of the police? Or the fact that one day you may have a DNA sample taken?

Yet just one person picked up on the bad cop comment. And in response to that person: trust me, I'm looking to get his driving ticket taken away from him. I just need evidence of it, which is difficult whilst I'm anchored in the office. Furthermore, he's not actually on my team, and with regard to his report I could only point it out to his skipper and voice my opinion of it. He assures me he has dealt with it.

And now for something completely different. I think we may find ourselves sharing common ground again: does anyone else think this (link to BBC website here) could only ever happen in this country?