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Philadelphia Police Looking to Lead on Getting Accurate Identifications

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On December 17, 2012, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, the Innocence Project, and the Philadelphia Police Department held a seminar attended by over 150 Captains, Lieutenants, and Commanders of the Philadelphia Police Department. The program, 

Chief Bill Brooks, Norwood, MA Police Dept.

Chief Bill Brooks, Norwood, MA Police Dept.

Enhancing Law Enforcement’s Ability to Ensure Accurate Convictions—Techniques & Scientific Developments, brought together seasoned law enforcement and national experts to present proven developments in the police techniques of photographic and live eyewitness identification.

Key points highlighted during the seminar were:

  • The science behind problems with eyewitness memory and recollection;
  • Recent court decisions acknowledging evidence-based eyewitness procedures;
  • Advanced techniques implemented by police departments nationwide;
  • The harm committed when innocent persons are wrongfully convicted due to misidentification.

The Philadelphia Police Department is the oldest municipal police agency in the United States and the 6th largest non-federal law enforcement agency in the country. This training is the largest of its kind held to date.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey

During the training, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey made it clear that he wanted the Department to adopt best-evidence based eyewitness identification protocols during his tenure. These updates include conducting procedures sequentially rather than simultaneously and by an administrator who does not know the suspect’s identity. When Philadelphia police make this change, the Department will become the largest single jurisdiction in the United States to do so.  Commanders who attended the training felt it was “high time” for these updates, and they want to work to make it happen.

When police get the right guy, instead of someone innocent, all of society benefits. That’s exactly what these eyewitness protocols are all about — getting it right using methods proven effective through rigorous scientific study. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is proud to support Commissioner Ramsey and the Department as strong leaders of best practices in law enforcement for our country.

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