The Innocence Project of Texas has announced that they will study, and assign grades, to 1,200 police departments statewide on their compliance with a state law requiring them to adopt written eyewitness identification policies. The new law requires every jurisdiction to implement written guidelines for eyewitness identification policies that are consistent with best practices. Decades of scientific research shows that procedures can be suggestive, that witnesses make mistakes, and that the likelihood of a misidentification can be minimized through implementation of best practices. The
“Unless somebody is really grading their papers, nobody knows whether the law is really being implemented,” said Scott Henson, a policy consultant for the Innocence Project.
Henson said that he expects to have received the policies and issued grades for the law enforcement agencies by early November.
Texas leads the nation in wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing and 38 of those cases involved at least one eyewitness misidentification.
Most law enforcement agencies use the same methods they have used for decades, rather than updating policies in accordance with scientific research. Sometimes misidentifications are triggered by a gap in memory or the desire to make an identification at all costs. In other cases, subtle cues by police – intentional or not – lead to a false identification. Almost all of these mistakes are preventable.
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