Eyewitness Identification

 

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.  

Training Videos


 

The International Cheifs of Police (IACP) has created five "roll call" police training videos that feature scientifically-supported best practices for eyewitness identification police protocols ot assist law enforcement agencies in traininng peace officers.  In May, 2017, the IACP Division of State Associations of Cheifs of Polce has distributed these videos to all 50 members to serve as a training resource. 

The IACP video series on eyewitness identification was created to provide training for officers who are unable to attend a classroom session. The techniques featured in the videos are based on the IACP model policy, as well as the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The first four videos are all under seven minutes in duration and can be shown at roll calls. The first is a general overview of the reasons for eyewitness identification reform. The second talks about an officer's initial response to the scene and modern techniques for eliciting a description and a statement. Th

International Chiefs of Police Video Training Resources

 

General Overview

 

Initial Response

 

Show Ups

 

Photo Arrays

 

Live Lineups

 

 

Below we have compiled additional video resources which covre the following eyewitness identification methods:  the folder shuffle, the photo array and the police line up.

Other Helpful Eyewitness Identitifciation Video Resources

 

Folder Shuffle

 

Photo Array

 

Police Line Up

 

 

Minnesota Resources

 

 

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.  

Additional Resources

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.