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Police Lineups: Making Eyewitness Identification More Reliable

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2007
8 pages
Publication Series
This article examines the current state of research on the reliability of various types of lineups for suspect identification and describes current plans for such research.
Basically, a police lineup involves placing a suspect among people not suspected of committing the crime ("fillers") and then asking the eyewitness whether he/she can identify the perpetrator. The procedure can be done with a live lineup of people or, as is more commonly done in the United States, a lineup of photographs. The two common types of lineups are called "simultaneous" and "sequential." The simultaneous lineup, which is used most often in the United States, involves the eyewitness viewing all the people or photos at one time. The sequential lineup presents people or photos to the eyewitness one at a time. The current state of research on simultaneous compared with sequential lineups--including the limited amount of field testing and the dispute over test designs and methodology--has produced more questions than answers. The results of the Illinois and Hennepin County studies show the need for more research on what works in police lineups and how police departments can easily and effectively implement them. An added factor that also requires further testing in the field is the effectiveness of "blind" (the lineup administrator interacting with the eyewitness does not know who is the suspect being presented in the lineup) compared with "nonblind" lineups (the lineup administrator knows who the suspect is in the lineup). Plans are underway for an NIJ-funded study of the reliability of simultaneous compared with sequential and blind versus nonblind lineups in the field. 22 notes

Date Published: October 1, 2007