UVA Professor Releases Report on Eyewitness ID Policies

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A University of Virginia professor is working with police departments across the commonwealth to make sure they are using proper procedures for identifying suspects.

Professor Brandon Garrett, who specializes in wrongful convictions, says most of the police departments in Virginia are using outdated eyewitness ID procedures.

"There are a lot of departments that still have nothing in writing at all about how to do a lineup and a lot of departments have something in writing but it's really bad, it's an unreliable procedure," Garrett said.

Garrett says when police show mug shots to a witness, the officer should not know who the real suspect is. But after collecting information from police stations in Virginia, Garrett discovered that's not the case.

"What was really disappointing was that only a handful of departments seem to be using that model policy," he said.

Garrett found about 90 percent of police departments are not following state recommendations when it comes to questioning eyewitnesses, many using policies that date back to 1993.

"Unfortunately we've just sort of left it up to the agencies to do it on their own, figuring, of course they would adopt best practices, why wouldn't they? Well it's not happening," Garrett said.

While many agencies are not following the rules, Charlottesville police are. The agency says it uses the recommended "blind" policy - something Garrett says all agencies need to adopt quickly because people's lives are on the line.

"In Virginia there have been 16 DNA exonerations and 13 out of the 16 involved eyewitness mistakes," Garrett said.

We do know what procedures police departments in our area use but we may never know which agencies aren't following the rules because Garrett promised them confidentiality.

Read his full report here.

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