Suspect Identification

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Suspect Identification


Nowhere more so than in criminal cases does the legal system rely on the testimony of eyewitnesses. The evidence eyewitnesses provide can be tremendously helpful in developing leads, identifying criminals, and exonerating the innocent. Therefore, the Northampton Police Department has established the following policies/procedures with regard to the collection and handling of eyewitness evidence.

The intent of this policy is to:

Combine research and practical perspectives;

Promote accuracy in eyewitness evidence; and

Promote sound professional practices.

Types of Eyewitness Evidence

Lineups: A display of photos or persons consisting of one

suspect among a number of fillers, from which a witness can

identify a perpetrator. Lineups will be composed in such a

manner that the suspect does not unduly stand out. Lineups shall

be presented in the sequential fashion as described below:

Sequential Photo/Live Lineup: Photos or individuals are viewed by the witness one at a time in random order.

Blind Testing Procedures: Blind testing means that the person administering the test (Independent Administrator) does not know the desired answer. Utilizing this practice, the Independent Administrator would not be aware of which member of the photo-spread or lineup is the suspect, and would eliminate the possibility of influencing the witness' selection.

Digital Imaging System: Digital Imaging Systems are collections of photos of previously arrested persons which may be used in cases where a suspect has or has not yet been determined and other reliable sources have been exhausted. This technique may provide a possible suspect, but results should be evaluated with caution.

Composites: A composite is a sketch based on the witness's descriptive information that enables officers to better perceive how a suspect may appear. Composite images can be beneficial investigative tools; however, they should not be used as stand- alone evidence and may not rise to the level of probable cause.

Showups: A showup is a field identification procedure performed when circumstances require the prompt display of a single suspect to a witness. The inherent suggestiveness of the encounter can be minimized through the use of procedural safeguards.


Composing Lineups: The identification procedure should be conducted in a manner that promotes the accuracy, reliability, fairness and objectivity of the witness' identification. The following procedures will result in the composition of a lineup in which a suspect does not unduly stand out.

Photo Lineups: Presenting a photo lineup, the investigator or lineup administrator should:

Include only one suspect in each identification procedure.

Select fillers (non suspects) who generally fit the witness' description of the perpetrator. When there is a ...
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