Eyewitnesses play a critical role in our criminal justice system. They are often essential to identifying,
charging, and ultimately convicting perpetrators of crime and in some cases may provide
the sole piece of evidence against those individuals. For these reasons, the value of accurate and
reliable eyewitness evidence cannot be overstated.
Cases in which DNA testing has exonerated individuals convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony
tend to make headlines, but in actuality, the frequency of mistaken eyewitness identifications
is quite small. The vast majority of eyewitness identifications are accurate and provide trustworthy
evidence for the trier of fact.
Recognizing the weight accorded eyewitness evidence by judges and juries, the National Institute
of Justice initiated a project in 1998 to research methods to improve the accuracy, reliability, and
availability of information obtained from eyewitnesses. The Technical Working Group for Eyewitness
Evidence (TWGEYEE), composed of experienced law enforcement investigators, prosecutors,
defense lawyers, and psychology researchers, worked together to produce recommendations for
the collection and preservation of this vital evidence. These consensus recommendations were
included in the 1999 NIJ publication Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement.
Because of the complex issues associated with identification practices, TWGEYEE recognized that
its recommendations may not be feasible in all circumstances. The Guide?s recommendations are
not legal mandates or policy directives, nor do they represent the only correct courses of action.
Rather, the recommendations represent a consensus of the diverse views and experiences of the
technical working group members, who have provided valuable insight into these important issues.
We expect that each jurisdiction will be able to use these recommendations to spark debate and
ensure that its practices and procedures are best suited to its unique environment.
Law enforcement personnel can benefit from training based on the procedures recommended in
the Guide. To assist law enforcement trainers with creating and instructing courses on eyewitness
evidence, including the topics of interviewing witnesses and conducting lineups, TWGEYEE has
developed the materials included herein. These detailed curriculum plans provide instructors with
explanations grounded in research and practical exercises that can enhance learning. For example,
this trainer?s manual includes a CD?ROM that can be used to guide students through composition
of a mock photo lineup. It is our hope that, through these materials, more of our Nation?s law
enforcement personnel will be trained to work effectively with eyewitnesses and maximize the
reliable evidence obtained from them, to the benefit of criminal case prosecutions.
NIJ extends its appreciation to the Baltimore County (Maryland) Police Department and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Community Policing Institute (MARCPI) for their willingness to test the training
materials included in this manualas well as their time and effort in doing soin the interest of
delivering a better product to the Nation?s law enforcement community. NIJ is particularly grateful
for the support of those who orchestrated and carried out the pilot testing of this manual: Captain
Howard Hall, Sergeants Theresa McQuaid, Samuel Hannigan, and Melvin Teal, and Officers Scott
Leonard and James Moss of the Baltimore County Police Department Training Academy; Director
William Rogers of MARCPI; and Karl Bickel of the U.S. Department of Justice?s Office of Community
Oriented Policing Services. Thanks also are extended to the many law enforcement and legal practitioners
from the Baltimore-Washington area who attended the pilot training course and provided
valuable suggestions to refine these materials. Special thanks are extended to Detective Lieutenant
Kenneth Patenaude of the Northampton (Massachusetts) Police Department for his selfless efforts
in developing the CD?ROM that accompanies this manual. Finally, we thank the members of the
TWGEYEE Training Panel for their extensive efforts on this project and their dedication to strengthening
the value of eyewitness evidence in the criminal justice system, as well as the original
TWGEYEE members, who continued their commitment to this project by reviewing and commenting
on this manual throughout its development stages. We believe that the overall improvement
in professional practices that will result from this project will ultimately lead to stronger evidence
for criminal cases and reliable verdicts.
The TWGEYEE members have dedicated their work to the memory of David C. Niblacksteadfast
working group member, devoted advocate, and also, friend.
Sarah V. Hart
Director, National Institute of Justice