Breakdown in Police Procedure Leads to False Arrest of Tampa Business Owner
Late last month, a Florida business owner was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for robbery. While the police detective who arrested him told the sheriff’s deputy that she was 100 percent sure that she’d picked up the right man, two days after he posted bail the police realized that they’d made a mistake.
reports that Daniel Pena was picked up by local police on January 26 for a string of robberies of three electronics and appliance stores after a store employee identified Pena from a police photo lineup. The paper reports that although police administered a
blind photo lineup
, a procedure recommended by the Innocence Project as a means to reducing eyewitness misidentifications, the detective on the case ultimately failed because she neglected to conduct a thorough investigation based on stronger evidence rather than simply witness identification. As a result, Pena was falsely arrested for the robberies, a crime that David Niemeyer, Jr., confessed to on January 29.
According to Laura McElroy, the spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office, Pena’s false arrest could have been prevented if the detective had attained important evidence—the surveillance video which revealed that the actual thief was much heavier in size than Pena—as she was supposed to, in a more timely fashion, reports the
Karen Newirth, senior fellow at the Innocence Project, told the
that while it seems that the police did correctly administer the blind photo lineup, proper procedure must be followed at every level of collecting evidence in criminal investigations.
The sheriff’s office has dropped the charges against Pena, but Pena said that he’s still waiting to receive an official notice that his record’s been expunged.
“It was a big, big mistake by the police department,” said Pena, according to the
. He questions the reliability of the Tampa Police Department and its detectives, he said.
Niemeyer, the man who police suspect of committing the robberies, is currently in jail without bail.
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