LAPD Resist Eyewitness Identification Reform


Though a Los Angeles Police Department investigation has exposed police misconduct during lineup procedures, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck remains opposed to adopting identification reforms. According to the Los Angeles Times, one recorded identification procedure reveals police Detective John Zambos continually encouraging a witness to select the suspect in the fourth slot.

“I kept seeing you go to four…And you kept returning to four,” Zambos said, according to a transcript reviewed by The Times. “Was [there] a reason why you kept comparing everybody to No. 4?”


The detectives then showed the witness a separate photo of the man in the fourth position. Eventually, she selected him as the killer.

Decades of social science research has shown that when the detective conducting the lineup knows the identity of the suspect, they are more prone to provide clues to the witness—either intentionally, as in this instance, or unintentionally. However, many law enforcement agencies nationwide have failed to update their procedures to incorporate scientific research. Some have no written guidelines for procedures at all.


Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing. An increasing number of cities and states—from Denver to Boston, and from Texas to Virginia—have adopted comprehensive eyewitness identification reforms to address the problem.


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