Illinois is now conducting blind lineups and photo arrays under a new state law that went into effect on January 1st. The new legislation requires police departments to have an “independent administrator” (a detective with no ties to a particular case) conduct both photo and in-person lineups. In cases where an entire police department may be involved, authorities will be able to use a computer program to conduct the lineup.
The aim of this new law is to increase transparency in police practice and hopefully limit detectives’ intentional or inadvertent influences over witness identifications. The use of an independent administrator will ensure that no one involved in the lineup knows the identity of the suspect. Improper lineups have been found to contribute highly to wrongful convictions, which can be seen in almost three-fourths of the 325 wrongful convictions that were overturned by DNA.
While there are still some kinks to be worked out, like detectives’ ability to bypass video and/or independent administrator-conducted lineups if it’s not available or practical to do so, Illinois’ new requirements look to be a great improvement for best police practice throughout the state.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon says that he’s pleased with the new law and hopes that it will work to ensure more accurate arrests and prosecutions. “Cognitive bias is not something the administrator is doing intentionally,” McMahon said. “It certainly has been an issue in wrongful convictions nationally, not just in Illinois. This is a ripe area for us in law enforcement to look at and challenge us to do better.”
Under the same law, Illinois police departments have already begun video-recording lineups. Authorities are now required to record the victim or witness when making an identification. The recordings will be made available for a judge to examine and are required to be shared with the defense attorney in the case.