Below we have included a series of training videos for use by law enforcement agencies in training officers on the best practices in eyewitness identification procedures. These videos are courtesy of the Norwood Policy Department in Norwood, MA.
Police Line Up
According to a review of DNA exonerations by the Innocence Project, approximately 75% of the people later exonerated by DNA were convicted after an eyewitness mistakenly identified them as the offender.
Some factors impacting the ability of an eyewitness to identity an offender are beyond the control of the police. So-called “estimator variables” such as lighting, the amount of time a witness observes an offender, whether the offender is of a different race, and the amount of stress felt by the witness during the crime are factors over which the police have no control. However, “system variables” such as the procedures used during the showing of a photo array can have significant impact.
Although researchers have questioned the reliability of eyewitness recall for more than 100 years, the DNA exonerations that began in the late 1980’s proved a basis for those reservations. In 1999, the National Institute of Justice convened The Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence, a task force of criminal justice professionals including police. The group’s report, Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement called on the police to standardize operating procedures and served as an outline for police training. Ten years later, the Boston Bar Association published Getting it Right, Improving the Accuracy and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System in Massachusetts. The report was the result of work performed by a task force of Massachusetts defense attorneys, prosecutors and police officers that came to strongly support the adoption of reform in four general areas, including eyewitness identification.
-Source: Chief William G. Brooks, Norwood (MA) Police Dept. Lesson Plan - which can be found here.
Estimator and Systems Variables
Many resources are available to law enforcment agencies seeking to train officers and staff on eyewitness identification best practices. Chief William Brooks of the Norwood, Massachusetts Police Department, has compiled an incredibly comprehensive group of training resources on eyewitness identification best practices.
Chief Brooks has made these materials available to public via his website.
Chief Brooks has enjoyed a 38-year career in law enforcement and is a certified eyewitness identification trainer. He is also a member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Committee on Eyewitness Identification and served as a member of the committee at the National Academy of Sciences which examined eyewitness identification research. In January, Chief Brooks used this lesson plan as the basis of two training sessions in Minnesota, attended by more than 160 in-service peace officers from 44 different law enforcement agencies across the state.