A bunch of gang members have been roving around the city, armed with guns and equipped with a device that allows them to collect DNA from people they decide, for one reason or another, should have their DNA collected. Sounds like a creepy dystopian sci-fi movie, but it’s not, it’s real life. The city is Houston and the armed gang members are police. That shiny badge, surely, makes it fine for these folks to go around with a device that can collect DNA from people, right?
|Police Testing Controversial Portable DNA Machine|
For the last 10 months, Houston police have been testing a new mobile DNA machine called rapid DNA that runs tests in under two hours.
HPD launched a pilot program with the company ANDE to test a machine that runs DNA tests in under two hours, local news station KHOU11 reported.
“This rapid DNA is the future. It comes down to when mathematicians stopped using abacuses and started using calculators. It’s that important to criminal justice,” said Lt. Warren Meeler, Houston Police Department, Homicide Division.
As part of the test program, proper protocol for using the technology has been to swab each piece of evidence twice. First, the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) takes an official sample for the lab, then Houston police take a second sample for the trial machine.
Houston police have used rapid DNA analysis in approximately 60 cases so far which range from aggravated assaults to murders according to the report.
Rapid DNA results can’t be used in court and the technology is only used for investigations in Houston according to the news outlet.
However, the technology has some forensic scientists worried about whether it should be used at crime scenes, warning about the accuracy of the technology.
“I think everybody is comfortable that if there is a high concentration of DNA from a single source, so an oral swab from an individual, we’re confident the instruments produce good data. The questions start to come in circumstances where we’ve got touch DNA — smaller quantities of DNA, more mixtures, there’s more people on that doorknob that I’m swabbing – there I’m not sure anybody knows yet,” said Dr. Peter Stout, President and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center.