The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for a report from the county’s criminal investigators detailing the protocol for how DNA samples from sexual assault victims are handled.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez requested the report following accusations by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin that the city’s Police Department used DNA collected from a sexual assault victim to connect her to another crime.
The board unanimously voted to ask the county’s district attorney’s office, public defender’s office and the Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring to report back on the matter at the board’s April 19 meeting.
“I’m asking for public discussion about this because I want to make sure that survivors know that they can be safe in coming forward and getting help, including a sexual assault forensic exam,” Chavez said.
Sexual assault victims are asked to voluntarily provide DNA to investigators, including evidence like bodily fluids, fingernail scrapings and scratch and bite marks.
Chavez said officials with District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s office claimed the office’s internal forensic Crime Laboratory “does not use the … in-house database to search survivors’ DNA profiles or ever use them to prosecute survivors for other alleged crimes.”
Last month, Boudin alleged that San Francisco police used DNA submitted by a woman who was sexually assaulted in 2016 to search for suspects of an unrelated crime.
Boudin also alleged that the practice of using DNA collected during a sexual assault victim’s exam, commonly called a rape kit, to investigate unrelated crimes is a common practice by law enforcement agencies across the state.
Boudin, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, announced a state bill on Monday that would ban the practice.
According to Boudin, federal law already does so, but the state does not have its own law preventing DNA from a rape kit being placed into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System database.
Santa Clara County supervisors also requested that county investigators include recommendations about how to bolster existing rape kit protocol to ensure DNA from sexual assault survivors is never used to prosecute other crimes.
“I want to make sure that all of our policies, procedures and protocols are positioned in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for them to be changed without a robust public discussion at any time in the future,” Chavez said.