Study: Traditional police lineups valuable

March 29, 2006

A three-city study by Chicago police suggests traditional methods of identifying suspects might produce better results than newer techniques.

The study tested the accuracy of witness identifications in police investigations in Chicago, Evanston and Joliet, all in Illinois.

Traditional lineups involve victims viewing several people -- including a suspect - simultaneously. A more modern technique called a sequential lineup involves victims viewing pictures or people one-by-one.

In sequential lineups a "double-blind" method is used, meaning they are conducted by someone not investigating that specific case, The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

The Illinois data contradict previous research that suggested double-blind, sequential lineups produce a lower rate of false identifications.

Of 319 simultaneous lineups conducted during the study, the suspect identified by police was chosen 59.9 percent of the time. Of 229 sequential lineups, the suspect was chosen 45 percent of the time.

But one critic of the study, Iowa State psychology Professor Gary Wells, notes the simultaneous lineups were not double-blind studies, with investigators working the cases supervising the lineups.

Wells says the double-blind method is more reliable because a lineup administrator involved in that specific investigation might unintentionally lead a victim to pick the suspect.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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