Police Testing Controversial Portable DNA Machine

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by Aaron Kesel, Activist Post:

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.

Houston isn’t the only city using rapid DNA, police departments across the country—from Florida to Arizona—have rolled out their own pilot programs to test these miniature portable DNA lab machines.

In December of 2015 results from a rapid DNA device were submitted as evidence in a successful murder prosecution for the first time attempted murder case in Richland County, South Carolina. (That article now has been curiously deleted from Reuters and is only available on archive.org)

A bill before Congress, introduced on December 2015 by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, called for profiles collected by rapid DNA devices to be connected to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the software and national database that stores DNA profiles from federal, state and local forensic laboratories.

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