San Francisco DA says proof of DNA rape kit debacle is in a crime lab report

San Francisco's District Attorney on Tuesday explained why he believes the city's police officers are comparing DNA from rape kits to unknown DNA left behind by suspects at crime scenes.

At a news conference, DA Chesa Boudin decried that this issue is a systemic one. But his proof? The first page of a crime lab report found in discovery for his case his office was asked to prosecute involving a woman arrested for a felony property crime in 2016. 

The revelations that the city's police crime lab tried to identify suspects through a database that includes DNA profiles from sex-assault victims were made public on Monday. If in fact that was true, Boudin and other experts say the practice could be unconstitutional and it could dissuade sex-assault victims from reporting crimes.

"It indicates that there were two items compared," Boudin said. "One was unknown DNA left by a suspect at a crime that occurred recently. During a routine search of the SFPD crime lab. It goes on and says that it compared that unknown sample with a known sample back in 2016 in a rape kit."

Boudin said he has had many conversations with leadership at the SFPD crime lab who told him this is an ongoing routine practice for law enforcement agencies in the entire state. He did not specify who he talked to or what was discussed.

"If you have questions on whether this is a systemic process, I would encourage you to ask the sf crime lab, and the answer will be yes," Boudin said. "First, do you routinely save internal databases that all DNA sexual assault survivors provide you in rape kit? The answer is yes. Second question, do you regularly test unknown crime samples against that database, the answer is also yes."

In response, Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement that the particular DNA match may have actually come from a non-victim database but that he will continue to review the matter thoroughly. Scott said earlier that if these allegations are true he will commit to ending the practice. 

Chesa was flanked by sexual assault advocates and Supervisor Hillary Ronen. She said she's working with the city attorney's office to draft legislation guaranteeing this practice is illegal. Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is going the same on a state level.

Kellylou Densmore, director of the city's Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, echoed the DA's disapproval of using DNA from rape kits for anything other than a sexual assault investigation. She alluded to that fact that the DA's office would drop the charges against the woman accused of a felony property crime, though Boudin did not confirm.

Boudin and Scott have been in a public disagreement this month over other issues as well, most specifically, ending an agreement that gives the DA the lead investigative powers after an officer uses excessive force or kills a civilian. 

"Whatever disagreements District Attorney Boudin and I may have, we agree this issue needs to be addressed," Scott said in a statement. "At the end of the day our respective departments exist to do just for victims of crime."