LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police departments across the U.S. are amassing DNA databases that critics say skirt stringent laws and regulations that govern the nationwide DNA database and state crime labs.

The so-called “local DNA databases” give police wider leeway on who they can take samples from, including some taken from children. It also allows law enforcement to hold onto samples longer than they would be kept in state or federal databases.

Police chiefs argue the databases are an invaluable crime-fighting tool that helps them solve cases much faster because of backlogs at state crime labs.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the San Diego Police Department over its policy allowing officers to take DNA samples from children who aren’t arrested or convicted of crimes.

The department declined to comment on the suit.

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