LEMIT Seeks Comment on Eyewitness ID Model Policy

eye looking through a jagged fence

The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas is seeking public comment on a model policy on the use of eyewitness identification procedures by law enforcement in Texas.

LEMIT was mandated by the Texas Legislature to develop a model policy and training that could serve as a sample for law enforcement agencies in the state in the wake of several high profile criminal cases that have been overturned by faulty eyewitness identification. All law enforcement agencies in Texas that conduct lineups in the routine performance of an officer’s duty are required to adopt a written policy and procedures on eyewitness identification by Sept. 1, 2012.

"LEMIT has been entrusted with the development of the model eyewitness identification policy and that development includes getting comment from the public,” said Dr. Rita Watkins, executive director of LEMIT. “It is important the citizens of Texas be afforded the opportunity to review and provide feedback on this important policy."

The proposed policy is based on scientific research in the field and was developed in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and special interest organizations across Texas. Among some of the key elements in the model policy are:

  • Witnesses should be provided with clear instructions, including a statement to indicate that the perpetrator may or may not be in the photo or live lineup.
  • The person administering the lineup should not know who the suspect is or should use a procedure that ensures the administrator can not give subtle cues to the witness.
  • Lineup administrators should thoroughly document the lineup procedures used and the outcomes.

“We have over three decades of scientific research on this issue,” said Dr. William Wells, research director at LEMIT. “Through our discussions with leading researchers and many practitioners, we are able to understand the lab research, the field research and the everyday practices in the field.”

“Eyewitness evidence is a critical part of a thorough investigation that can and should be further enhanced by the pursuit of other corroborative evidence,” said Cary Young, Constables education program coordinator at LEMIT.

The full draft of the policy and procedures is available on the LEMIT website at www.lemitonline.org, which can be accessed at public libraries. Comments can be made via e-mail to lemitresearch@shsu.edu. A printed copy of the draft policy and procedures is available by sending a letter along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Dr. Rita Watkins, Executive Director, The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, Sam Houston State University, 1600 Bobby K. Marks Boulevard, Huntsville, Texas 77341-2417. The comment period will remain open through Nov. 30, 2011.

Once the comments are reviewed and the draft is finalized, the model policy will be presented to law enforcement agencies in Texas for their consideration. Training for peace officers on the policy is expected to be held in the Spring and early Summer of 2012.

Member of The Texas State University System