News


Florida Law Enforcement and Prosecutors Adopt Strong New Eyewitness Identification Standards

 
 Florida’s criminal justice community has adopted tight new standards designed to ensure neutrality, impartiality and consistency in eyewitness identification. The statewide standards were developed and endorsed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) and the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) in collaboration with the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association (FPAA).  Each law enforcement agency is called upon to develop its own policy and procedures to conform to the standards by Nov. 1, 2011.

 
“Lineups are equally critical in clearing the innocent and identifying the guilty,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who serves on the Florida Innocence Commission.  “These contemporary standards create strong protocols and high levels of accountability for Florida law enforcement.  Our criminal investigations will be improved.”
 
Lineups are conducted by including a potential suspect in an array of multiple photos (displayed either sequentially or simultaneously), or a live lineup of individuals.  The new standards call for law enforcement agencies to adopt specific policies for conducting lineups that detail:
         The creation, composition, and utilization of the photo array or lineup, including documenting how the witness indicated any positive identification has been made and how the witness acknowledged the standard instructions.
         The standard instructions to be used to instruct the witness prior to a photographic or live lineup, which include: indications that the person of interest might or might not be in the photo array or lineup, that the witness is not required to make an identification, that it is as important to exclude innocent persons as it is to identify the perpetrators, and that the investigation will continue with or without an identification.
         Directions to the investigator conducting the photographic or live lineup to avoid any conduct that might directly or indirectly influence the witness’s decision, and to avoid comments or actions that suggest the witness did or did not identify the suspect.
         How to discern the level of confidence in an identification as expressed by the witness.
         How to document the procedure and outcome of the photographic or live lineup, including noting the witness’s response and exact words.
         The method(s) of presenting the lineup.
         Required training on the agency policy by any agency personnel who will be administering a photographic or live lineup.
 
It is also recommended that agencies use an independent administrator (someone who does not know the suspect) or a functional equivalent procedure (using an administrator who does not know the order the photos are being presented to the eyewitness) to ensure neutrality. 
 
Initially developed and issued on March 1, the standards were revised following input and finalized on June 15. The current standards incorporate model policies of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, reflect extensive input from Florida’s law enforcement community, include recommendations based on legislative consideration of the issue in the 2011 Session as well as suggestions from the Florida Innocence Commission, and adopt the state law enforcement accreditation requirements.  
 
Previously, specific eyewitness identification policies and protocols varied from agency to agency.  While many law enforcement agencies across the state already have procedures in place consistent with the new standards, adopting them statewide will ensure uniformity and consistency, promotes accountability at the agency level, yet at the same time will not mandate additional financial obligations on agencies.  In conforming to the standards, an agency will be promoting fairness in eyewitness identification regardless of the particular method of identification utilized. 
 
“These are practical standards that promote fairness and reduce possible bias,” said FSA President Harrell Reid, Sheriff of Hamilton County.  “They can be effectively used by every agency, regardless of size or resource levels.”
 
“These standards establish clear and consistent expectations about how eyewitness identifications should be conducted, said FPCA President Paul Sireci, Chief of the Tampa International Airport Police Department.  “They will promote fairness and prevent undue or improper influencing of witnesses and victims, while at the same time avoiding a rigid ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
 
Law enforcement agencies will file a copy of their policy and procedure meeting the new standards with their local State Attorney’s Office.  State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, a member of the eyewitness identification working group, stated on behalf of the FPAA: “Law enforcement and prosecutors believe that reliable eyewitness identification evidence is, and will remain, an essential element of successful crime fighting.   Having law enforcement take ownership of the eyewitness identification issue and lead in the efforts to improve procedures is a strong step forward in assuring that justice is served in every criminal case."
 
The standards can be found on FDLE’s website at www.fdle.state.fl.us.
 
For more information contact:
Heather Smith, Keith Kameg or Kristi Gordon
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001
 
Nanette Schimpf
Florida Sheriffs Association
(850) 528-2639
 
Amy Mercer
Florida Police Chiefs Association
(850) 219-3631
 
State Attorney Michael McAuliffe
Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association
(561) 355-7249