Sgt. Sean Drenth death update: Phoenix police officers suing over DNA samples; asking for $1

Three Phoenix police officers have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated during a homicide investigation involving the mysterious death of a fellow police officer.

Officers Daniel Bill, Bryan Hanania, and Michael Malpass said their rights were violated when they were court ordered to supply Phoenix homicide detectives with samples of their DNA during the investigation into the shooting death of Sgt. Sean Drenth.

Drenth was on-duty when he was found shot to death with his own shotgun in October 2010. Dozens of police officers responded to the scene when they learned of the shooting. As a result, the crime scene was compromised.

Homicide detectives asked for voluntary DNA samples from officers and city officials who had been to the crime scene, but five officers and a civilian employee refused to hand over their DNA samples - including the three officers who filed the lawsuit.

Bill, Hanania, and Malpass would have voluntarily supplied their DNA samples if the city had promised not to store it in a police crime database for decades into the future, said Paul Orfanedes, the Director of Litigation for Judicial Watch – the organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the officers.

The officers would really like to see a change in police policy when it comes to collecting DNA samples from police employees, said Orfanedes. 

Orfanedes said the officers would also like their DNA samples to be returned to them or destroyed. They are also asking for $1 in "nominal damages."

According to the Judicial Watch complaint, the officers who filed the lawsuit were not near the crime scene at the time of Drenth's death.

Each of the officers responded to the crime scene, but none of the plaintiffs had direct contact with Drenth's body, vehicle or weapons, according to a statement released by Judicial Watch.

The lawsuit claims the Phoenix Police Department's management, "[D]eprived Plaintiffs Bill, Hanania, and Malpass of their rights under the U.S. Constitution by subjecting them to buccal swabs for purposes of DNA analysis without obtaining search warrants, without probable cause, and without having a non-law enforcement special need."

"Simply because officers swear their allegiance to uphold the law doesn't mean they surrender their rights to be protected under it," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

"The Fourth Amendment cannot be selectively applied by the City of Phoenix. Citizens have a right to be secure in their persons – and this includes their DNA," he said.

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