Virginia Lawmaker: Improvements Needed for Identification Policies


The head of the Virginia State Crime Commission spoke out yesterday about the failure of dozens of police agencies to adopt written policies on lineups. Janet Howell, a Virginia State Senator and the crime panel chairwoman,

said she was disappointed

that 25 percent of law enforcement agencies across the state lacked identification policies despite a 2005 law recommending them.

“I’m feeling aggrieved,” Howell said. “We put in code that every jurisdiction would have a written policy, and they don’t. At least 25 percent don’t. That is very discouraging that so many don’t.”

The crime commission conducted a survey recently to gauge compliance with the 2005 law, and also found that only 67 percent of agencies use independent (blind) administrators for lineups, and only 56 percent use sequential lineups (where participants are presented one at a time).

Research has shown that double blind lineups (where administrators don’t know which participant is the suspect) significantly reduce the chance of a misidentification. Eyewitness misidentification has been a factor in 75 percent of the 258 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing to date. Several other states have conducted similar surveys recently, finding that many police departments lack written policies for eyewitness identification procedures. After a Rhode Island study found that 75 percent of state agencies lacked written identification procedures, the legislature

created a task force to examine the issue statewide


Read more about the Innocence Project

recommendations to reform eyewitness identification


see what states are doing to address the problem



 In light of the National Academy of Science’s 2014 report, “Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification,” the Innocence Project awaits further research concerning the merits of the sequential and simultaneous presentation methods. 

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