Attitudes towards police use of consumer/private DNA databases in investigations

Alexandra Quinton, Sally Kelty, Nathan Scudder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Consumer DNA products, such as databases that allow the public to explore familial relationships, have recently been used by police to assist in investigations. This has moved the collection of DNA used in criminal investigations away from the limitations of criminal databases and has opened up ethical concerns regarding privacy and consent. This study explored public attitudes and support towards police use of consumer DNA databases in investigations to assess whether different crime types or moral and attitude alignments influenced the level of public support of police using these consumer products. An international survey of 438 adults, using theory and scales pertaining specifically to retributive punishment and attitudes towards law, courts and police, found that moral alignment and attitudes did influence the level of public acceptability towards police usage of these techniques and that support did vary based on crime type. This research found that higher levels of public support was given for the most serious case types explored (sexual assault and homicide). Participant support for police access to private DNA databases by case type was as follows; 83.5% for sexual assault, 83.2% for homicide, 85.2% for identifying unidentified human remains, 62.8% for robbery and 58.9% for illicit drug related cases. Small to medium effects sizes were observed for these results. Although these findings provided context towards
public attitudes, further research specific to international attitude differences and variance between serious crime types and public acceptability could further develop these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263–271
Number of pages9
JournalScience and Justice
Volume62
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

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