HPD changes photo lineup policy to prevent false arrests

HPD changes its photo lineup policy to prevent false arrests
Published: Mar. 2, 2015 at 9:06 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2015 at 1:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

The Honolulu Police Department is changing one way it identifies suspects in cases.

Following a nationwide trend, HPD is changing the photo lineup policy.  It's an effort to prevent falsely identifying suspects.  

The department has now trained detectives to use "sequential" lineups instead of the traditional, "6-pack" lineups, where a group of pictures are shown to a witness all at once.

"The witness uses 'relative' judgement, which means he has to look at all the photos in the array and compare them to each other as well as to his memory of what the offender looked like and make a relative judgement," says former federal agent and retired police officer, Tommy Aiu.

The new way, the sequential lineup, presents each photo to the witness, one at a time.

"That requires 'absolute' judgement," says Aiu, "Where the witness must look at each one and, based only on his memory of the crime that was committed and the suspect, make a judgement of who the suspect is."

"All in all, it is a much more sound practice for court procedure as well," says Detective James Slayter of the Honolulu Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division.  

University of Hawaii Law Professor Ken Lawson says it is a good policy and will help reduce the number of wrongful convictions.

"Since DNA has come into existence, you have 300 people found factually innocent," and Lawson says of those 300, more than 70% were jailed based solely on false, eyewitness identifications.  

Lawson says police departments don't rely on one eyewitness to make an arrest anymore, but lineups are a piece of the puzzle.

One more change to the policy, the person presenting the pictures to the witness cannot be involved in the case and cannot know which one is the suspect.

 "It will eliminate any possible inadvertent clues as to who we believe the suspect to be," says Det. Slayter, "And it will also eliminate any possible validation at the end to let the witness know whether or not they selected the person we believe to be the suspect."
Some detectives are worried the new process will delay the progression of the case because they have to find someone to administer the lineup, even if the witness is ready to do the lineup.  HPD says they are trying to train enough people so that isn't a problem.
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