A storm of criticism is breaking over a top British police official's proposal to seize and store DNA samples from children as young as five years old if they show signs of future criminality - that is, if they misbehave. "You could argue the younger the better," said the scheme's mastermind, Scotland Yard director of forensic services Gary Pugh.
In other words: Your kindergartener's tantrum, or a first-grade teacher who doesn't like the way your kid squirms in his seat, could be grounds for the government to collect his genes and label him a suspect. Permanently.
British newspapers carried quotes from several top-level ministers who support the idea. And Jacqui Smith, who is Home Secretary - one of the most senior and prestigious posts in the government - said it would be kept "under review."
Thankfully, human rights groups and a teachers union were quick to condemn the plan, and the Association of Chief Police Officers has distanced itself from it. But - here's the next kicker - it turns out that those British bobbies are already stashing away lots of teen and preteen DNA samples:
Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the DNA database after being arrested will have reached around 1.5 million this time next year.
One and a half million kids! If there are 7 million or so 10 to 18-year-olds among the UK's 60 million people, that means that the genes of about 20% of them are already on file. Might that be a problem for the presumption of innocence? And has anyone looked at the class and racial composition of this group?
But lest you think the problem is confined to the other side of the pond, consider California's Proposition 69, passed by 62% of voters in 2004. When it goes fully into effect next January, police will be allowed to expand the state's criminal databases with DNA from anyone arrested for any felony - including trespassing and shoplifting - whether or not they are convicted.
Previously on Biopolitical Times: