by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 19, 2007 in DNA Around the World, DNA and the Law
Americans should be grateful they live in a country where the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which passed the House last month, will hopefully prohibit employers and insurance companies from using genetic information. No such genetic privacy considerations exist for job seekers in Trinidad and Tobago where candidates for the Police Service will not only have to submit to polygraph and psychological testing, they will have to submit their DNA as well.
In the UK, the Association of Chief Police Officers suggested collecting DNA from police officers earlier this year. And in 2004, Victoria Police in Australia were also considering a similar measure. They claimed DNA would be one way to crackdown on corruption. And in fact, an interview with Assistant Commissioner at the Ethical Standards Department, Kieran Walsh, claimed that lie detector tests would generate greater opposition than DNA testing. (I had to read that twice to believe it.)
Here are some ways DNA from job applicants, including police recruits, can be used:
To predict current and future health status as it affects fitness for the job.
To determine insurance liability both for the job candidates and their families (since genes are inherited).
To make sure the candidate isn’t a crime suspect by comparing his/her DNA with DNA databases. According to another interview with Noel Perry, Assistant Commissioner of the Ethical Standards Commissioner in 2003, gang leaders and members of organized crime have joined police forces before (remember that horrible movie starring Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed?).
In the case of police recruits, DNA can be keep on file for comparison to samples taken at crime scenes as a safeguard against police involvement in criminal activity.
I can tell you this right now. If a potential employer asked me to submit to genetic testing before I were given a job, I would walk right out the door. But not everyone has the luxury. If a person desperately needs a secure job, what would he or she do to get it? Giving a DNA sample might not seem like a big deal especially to people who are unaware of the possible repercussions.
However, some believe those involved in protecting public safety are in a special position. The argument for DNA testing of potential police recruits is that they must weigh the potential benefit to the community vs. benefit to the individual. And when it comes to policing, community has to come first. What do you think?
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