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NCJ Number: 228760 Find in a Library
Title: Eyewitness Identification: Views From the Trenches
Journal: Police Chief  Volume:76  Issue:10  Dated:October 2009  Pages:78-84,86,87
Author(s): Peter A. Modafferi; Mike Corley; Ron Green; Chris Perkins
Date Published: October 2009
Page Count: 9
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After noting the questionable reliability of eyewitness identification and key factors that contribute to it, this article suggests a strategy for addressing these factors, followed by recommendations from three law enforcement leaders.
Abstract: Although eyewitness testimony is an important investigative tool and is extremely persuasive in court, it is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide. Mistaken eyewitness identification has been reported to play a role in just over 75 percent of the convictions that have been overturned by DNA testing. Studies have identified two key factors that contribute to mistaken eyewitness identifications, i.e., improper suggestion by the investigating officer and others, and inaccurate perception by the witness. Police officers with detailed knowledge of the case may inadvertently communicate an identification suggestion to the witness. In addition, the average person lacks training in observation, and particular eyewitnesses may have visual, mental, or background characteristics that impair their ability to make an accurate identification of the suspect. A frequent cause of mistaken eyewitness identification is cross-racial identification; studies indicate that people of one race have a difficult time recognizing distinctive facial attributes of people of other races. Training Key 597 promulgated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends that an assessment of a witness's credibility should involve consideration of such factors as the witness’s demeanor, capacity, opportunity to perceive, character, bias, prior inconsistent statements, recollection, and background and training in accurate observation. Three law enforcement leaders - an assistant chief in Richardson, TX; a retired U.S. Secret Service agent; and a deputy chief in Roanoke, VA - offer recommendations for ways to guard against mistaken eyewitness identifications based on their experience and the practices of their organizations. 10 notes
Main Term(s): Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Evidence collection; Eyewitness memory; Eyewitness testimony; Investigative techniques; Suspect identification
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