Leading Community Organizations Urge Edmonton Police to Stop Usage of DNA Phenotyping Technology ImmediatelyWritten by National Council of Canadian Muslims
Edmonton - October 7th 2022
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), alongside numerous Edmonton community organizations (see below), is concerned about the usage of DNA phenotyping methods by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). According to a recent EPS press release, the Service is utilizing, for the first time in its history, the controversial method of DNA phenotyping in the hopes of identifying a suspect.
This method is racist, dangerous, and not useful. We are calling for an immediate end to the Service’s usage of such an approach.
The use of DNA phrenology takes available DNA material, however incomplete, to build out a hypothetical physical profile of the person of interest.
In their latest effort, the DNA used resulted in a vague portrait featuring the suspect’s race and other traits, which make up the hypothetical physical profile. In their release, the EPS published a generic image of a Black male—the result of DNA phenotyping—to the public.
It is hard to overstate the absurdity of releasing a hypothetical, racialized portrait of a suspect to the public, while hoping such a tactic might lead to overall vigilance and perhaps an arrest. In effect, the public is asked to “watch out” for a person of a particular race, with some other physical traits thrown in as ranges (eg. height). It is racial profiling backed up by incomplete science.
“Racial profiling is an ongoing issue that impacts Alberta’s BIPOC communities,” said Said Omar, NCCM’s Alberta Advocacy Officer. “A true commitment to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion by any police service must include listening to marginalized voices, particularly in Edmonton, who have grave concerns about this approach.”
We are aware that the Edmonton Police Service has issued an apology regarding this situation. However, this apology is insufficient and does not commit at all to stopping the practice of DNA phenotyping.
We are in direct contact with community organizations that have joined us in highlighting the problems with DNA phenotyping. They also join us in issuing this release:
We have also reached out to the Edmonton Police Service, as well as the Edmonton Mayor’s office, regarding this issue.
The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization that is a leading voice for civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.