There are few regulations in place for the use of genetic genealogy approaches by law enforcement, Mother Jones reports, noting that some states in the US have even taken opposing approaches.
Police investigators are increasingly turning to using genetic genealogy to track down suspects, particularly in old, cold cases. Last year, police in California announced they had arrested Joseph James DeAngelo for the murders of Katie and Brian Maggiore. Their death has been linked to the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, who is thought to have raped about 50 women and killed about a dozen people in the 1970s and 1980s. Following this success, similar techniques contributed to additional arrests, including in the deaths of a Canadian couple in Washington State in 1987 and in the 1986 rape and death of a child.
The approach, Mother Jones notes, has its critics, as it could lead to innocent people being suspected of crimes because of a family connection as well as eventually be applied not only to violent crimes but to minor owns. Different jurisdictions have begun to address the use of genetic genealogy and commercial DNA databases in police work. California and Virginia have limited familial searches to when all other options have failed, while Maryland and Washington, DC, have banned them.
But, it adds, that the use of genetic genealogy has yet to be tested in court and that the DeAngelo case may take years to resolve.
"It's like the Wild West," David Kaye, a law professor at Pennsylvania State University, tells Mother Jones.