DNA database

The review for the new Police and Criminal Evidence Act includes a plan to capture the DNA of millions more people, by taking DNA from people accused of the most minor offences, according to the Observer.

Unsurprisingly, this is worrying civil liberties groups. In particular, there is a fear that there will be so many people’s DNA on file that it will seem unfair to miss off the rest of the population, so there will be a strong argument for getting everybody’s.

Of more immediate concern is how much the present system is collecting and how biased in its range.

Liberty claims that, per head of population, the UK has five times as many people on the DNA database as any other country. The government estimates that even if the database is not expanded to include the details of minor offenders, some 4.5 million people will still be on it by 2010.

The expansion of the database is prompting fears that people from ethnic minorities are being stigmatised. According to research by the Liberal Democrats, under the existing system within three years the details of more than half of all black men will be on the DNA database.

Do I really need to even comment on this stuff? It sets off too much knee-jerk 1984 incoherent ranting in me.

5 times as many people’s DNA as any other European country? More than half of all black men on it in 3 years? What a proud national record.

There will apparently be a few month’s public “consultation”. The road-pricing and ID petitions give you a fair idea of how far the government will diverge from whatever path it is set on, even if the whole country rises up and says mildly but assertively, “Hang on a minute. We’re not completely convinced that totalitarian control of every aspect of life is the only way to run a society…..”

Juking the stats

The Wire (official “best tv series ever”) shows how the need to mess about with statistics distorts the nature of policing. It’s called something impenetrable like “juking the stats” (duking? jooking? dooking? On the basis of a brief Googling, I went with juking as it seems to mean “being deceptive”.)

The drive to constantly improve crime figures – numbers of crime and clear up rates – leads to several wrong-headed initiatitives, such as harrassing large numbers of people for petty misdemeanours in pointless swoops and attempting to ignore the existence of large numbers of bodies left by Stansfield’s crew.

As in art, so in life, to add yet another cliche to the “crimes against cliche use” tally in this blog’s statistics. British police are now protesting about the distortions created by the drive to improve statistics.
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