Wednesday, June 15, 2005


The customary practice of the police is to fingerprint and take the mug shot of those who are arrested. The justification, among others, is to aid in the prevention of escape and to keep a record of convictions. In any event, regardless of whether there is an escape, and even if there is no conviction, the prints go to Washington. Some law enforcement agencies are seeking to add DNA to the identification material. Printing, mugging and taking of DNA are invasions of privacy, but otherwise they seem to be harmless.

Most people are glad the police follow these policies. It makes it possible to identify the perpetrator of some new crimes. As an example, a child is abducted and found dead in a shallow grave. Murder. DNA bb’s [body bits] are found, and fingerprints are found. Who is going to complain if the national database is consulted, including that part of the database provided by persons who are innocent of all wrongdoing and suspicion? No objections.

We want a database, and we will approve the keeping of such data on innocent people, and the routine (no warrant required) search of that database in unsolved cases. We are even tolerating surveillance cameras in public places for (among other things) the detection and apprehension of the wanted, by computer comparison of the current surveillance pictures with digital picture files. So the question is, do we want the government to take the fingerprints, mug shot and DNA of each of us? As has been repeatedly said, “If you have not done anything wrong, what have you got to hide?”

The fair thing, the right thing to do, is to take the information from all of us or none of us (unless in a specific case with a warrant). This would inevitably lead to a national ID card; but why not a national ID card?

No comments: