Move Over, Police Sketches: DNA's On the Case

Forensic phenotyping works, but is it ethical?
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2009 10:02 AM CDT
Police can now use DNA evidence to get an idea of what a suspect might look like.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – The old-fashioned police sketch could soon be obsolete, the Wall Street Journal reports, thanks to DNA forensic phenotyping, an increasingly popular technique that uses crime-scene DNA to describe a suspect. So far, labs can only determine details such as ethnicity and physical traits, but that alone has helped in some cases, and scientists are working to push the technique further.

One Penn State geneticist, for example, is working to create a literal genetic police sketch, with a computer using genetic data to draw the subject, though that project won’t bear fruit for years. For now, the controversial technique remains somewhat unreliable. Germany and several US states have banned the practice over ethical concerns about racial profiling.