At a news conference at New York City Police Department headquarters in One Police Plaza this week, law enforcement officials announced the first-ever guidelines for photo lineups and videotaped interrogation. The guidelines make sure a witness is not influenced in any way.
From now on, photo arrays will be computer-generated and not hand-assembled by investigators, and a standard form will be used to record witness statements. Witnesses will be told not to look at investigators while examining a lineup or photo array.
Where the investigator stands during an interview will be standardized, to reduce the chance that a witness is influenced by a detective’s body language, or facial expression.
“When you bring a victim in to look at lineup, the investigator’s going to stand behind the victim. That way, you cannot argue the witness got a visual clue, unless someone has eyes in the back of the head,” said Kate Hogan of the State District Attorneys Association.
“These are major steps towards synchronizing our efforts and furthering our common interest in an unimpeachable criminal justice system, reducing the chances of misidentification, and increasing the certainty of a fair trial must be among our highest priorities,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The training is already underway.
“We are launching a new photo array pilot in eight precinct detective squads — Midtown South, the 19th, 40th, the 43rd, the 71st, 77th, 102nd and 114th Precincts,” said Kelly.
The effort started a year ago, when someone in the Onondaga County district attorney’s office suggested creating a best practices committee to examine how witnesses are interviewed, treated and processed during the suspect-identification part of an investigation.
“I represent the County of New York, which has 110,000 cases that come through our courthouses each year,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. “So it’s important in our jurisdiction that we implement the best practices that are being announced today, to ensure that in our justice system going forward we continue promoting public safety with fairness.”
The NYPD has already been using some of the new protocols in some precincts.