THE MAGAZINE

Eyewitness Identification: A Police Perspective

By Paul Carroll and Ken Patenaude; Reviewed by James D. Brown, CPP

***** Eyewitness Identification: A Police Perspective. By Paul Carroll and Ken Patenaude. Available from ASIS, item #2000; 162 pages; $39 (ASIS member), $43 (nonmember).

Law enforcement has the responsibility to arrest the guilty person and an obligation to ensure that the wrong person is not convicted of a crime. Eyewitness Identification acknowledges the increasing awareness that eyewitness identification of criminals is unreliable.

The authors participated with the U.S. Department of Justice in the development of Eyewitness Evidence: A Trainer’s Manual for Law Enforcement in 2003. Building on that work, the authors summarize representative eyewitness identification cases, along with state and federal government efforts throughout the United States to improve accuracy.

The book covers related topics, such as human memory, photograph collection, and display. Carroll and Patenaude present the issues and background in a logical manner and make a good case for changes in eyewitness identification procedures. Emphasis is placed on good interviewer training, which can be critically important. The authors advocate a cognitive method of facilitating the eyewitness interview via rapport and social techniques. The most accurate identifications are made when another interviewer conducts the identification and proper instructions are given to the witness. Only one photo or person should be presented at a time, and the eyewitness should provide a statement as to the degree of certainty of the identification.

The book could do a better job of explaining some concepts. For example, early in the book, the authors assert that the proper way to do eyewitness identification “is to conduct a sequential double-blind line up and/or photo array,” but it gives no explanation of what that process is. Also “simultaneous procedures” (when all photos or persons in a line-up are exposed for identification at the same time) are not explained on first mention.

The authors include model policies, court decisions, and research references; however, there is no index. Despite these shortcomings, the book would be a significant asset to anyone in the criminal justice system who deals with eyewitness or related issues.


Reviewer: James D. Brown, CPP, is a retired police chief from Streetsboro, Ohio. He is currently the associate director of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a member of the ASIS International Law Enforcement Liaison Committee.

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