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DPD 'Showups'


Duke Lane
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Dallas police have, "for the first time in its history," instituted a new policy regarding showups and witness identification of suspects. The original article can be found here on DallasNews.com. The only thing that would have made this policy more - is the word "ironic?" - is if they'd begun abiding by it nine days later!

New witness ID policy implemented

By JENNIFER EMILY, Staff Writer (jemily@dallasnews.com)

The new policy – instituted last month but announced to the public on Tuesday – limits and regulates how and when such identifications can be done and requires supervision.

Showup identifications typically occur when a suspect is found close to the scene of a recent crime. They can be conducted in person or with a photo shown to the witness. Although legal, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the practice highly suggestive in a 1967 decision.

Portions of the policy were developed after a Dallas Morning News investigation in October into faulty eyewitness identification involving 18 of 19 DNA exonerations in Dallas County. The News showed that three of the wrongful convictions were the result of showups.

Dallas police conducted a review of six months of showups after the newspaper's series ran, and the review showed that more than half of the showups conducted during that period were not necessary to make an arrest.

The new policy – instituted last month but announced to the public on Tuesday – limits and regulates how and when such identifications can be done and requires supervision.

Showup identifications typically occur when a suspect is found close to the scene of a recent crime. They can be conducted in person or with a photo shown to the witness. Although legal, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the practice highly suggestive in a 1967 decision.

Portions of the policy were developed after a Dallas Morning News investigation in October into faulty eyewitness identification involving 18 of 19 DNA exonerations in Dallas County. The News showed that three of the wrongful convictions were the result of showups.

Dallas police conducted a review of six months of showups after the newspaper's series ran, and the review showed that more than half of the showups conducted during that period were not necessary to make an arrest.

Gary Wells, a nationally recognized expert on eyewitness identification and an Iowa State University psychology professor, said DPD's new policy is "right out in front with the very best in the country."

"Someone did their homework well," Dr. Wells said.

Although the policy became official late last month, officers began abiding by it on Nov. 13.

Since then, police have conducted at least four showups, said police Lt. David Pughes. And one of those showups led to an early change in the policy, he said.

Officers initially did not ask suspects if they would go to the police station voluntarily for a photo lineup that includes at least five other photos. Now they do, and that change could lead to even fewer showups, Lt. Pughes said.

Other changes instituted by the policy include:

• A sergeant must respond to the scene and supervise, but all showups must be approved by the watch commander.

• The suspect must be located near the crime scene and detained no more than 30 minutes before the showup is conducted, and no longer than two hours after the crime occurred.

• The witness, when possible, should be taken to the suspect. And the witness should be advised that the person they are looking at may or may not be the offender.

The policy also requires the observing supervisor to document the process. Then, Lt. Pughes said, the showup is reviewed.

"We critique it," he said. "We look at it and see what was done – was it according to policy and if there's anything in the policy we should tweak."

One wonders: what, if any, difference would this have made 45 years ago?
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