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Visual Identification of Suspects: Procedures and Practice

NCJ Number
Graham Pike; Nicola Brace; Sally Kynan
Date Published
March 2002
6 pages
This study identifies obstacles to the timely and effective post-arrest identification of suspects and examples of good practice or changes to policy that might overcome these obstacles.
Visual identification (ID) is an important part in the investigation of many crimes. In interpersonal crimes such as robbery, violence, and sexual offenses, eyewitness information is critical to the apprehension of a suspect and subsequent prosecution. Live identification parades are the main way this information is tested prior to court. They can be problematic and time consuming. Data were collected from police records in England and Wales, a compilation of surveys on identification procedures, and in-depth interviews with police officers. Previous studies had reported a consistently high cancellation rate for ID procedures. Results of this study showed that 52 percent of arranged procedures were cancelled before being shown to a witness. Of the procedures that were conducted, 49 percent resulted in the positive identification of the suspect. Overall, 23 percent of arranged procedures resulted in the positive identification of the suspect. Robbery cases accounted for the highest proportion of ID procedures (35 percent). This may be due to the opportunities to obtain eyewitness evidence and the seriousness of the crime. Robbery (and burglary) produced a lower rate of positive identifications than other crime types. The reason for this is not clear. VIPER Unit (video) parades produced a higher rate of positive identifications than live parades. This could be because this system avoids the necessity of the witness confronting the suspect (even it is behind a glass partition). Recommendations include elevating the status of video parades to an equal legal standing with live identification parades; increasing the provision of video parades; allowing video image capture of suspects as soon as possible; and including identification parade training in the current Inspector course. 5 figures, 10 footnotes, 9 references