News 07.16.15

Nebraska Strives for Better Eyewitness Identification Practices

Nebraska is the latest state to move towards eyewitness identification  reform. The League of Nebraska Municipalities developed a model policy on police identification procedures which was distributed to all local law enforcement agencies in the hopes that these new procedures will replace older, more problematic ways of helping witnesses identify suspects.

The model policy encourages police to conduct “blind” lineups in which the administering officer is not involved in the investigation and cannot assist the witness in selecting the actual suspect from a lineup, either intentionally or unintentionally. It encourages the administering officer to remind the witness that the suspect may not be in the lineup. All the participants in a lineup should have similar features. Lastly, when the witness makes a selection, the witness should write a statement about how confident he or she is in his or her selection.

“Law enforcement should ask the witness at the time they make the identification ‘how confident are you in the identification’ and then record verbatim what the witness says,” Innocence Project Senior Fellow Karen Newirth told

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. “Having that initial statement of their level of confidence is really important. Confidence is the single most important factor for juries in determining whether they believe a witness.”

It is now up to the law enforcement agencies to decide whether to utilize the recommendations. Chief Steve Lamken, president of the Nebraska Police Chief’s Association, told

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that he intends to adopt the suggestions as part of his standard operating procedures. A spokesperson for the Nebraska State Patrol told

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that they might “implement a part of the best practice methods.”

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Read the model policy



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