Austin police have begun drafting their first written policies for how investigators should conduct photo lineups, spurred in part by cases in which questionable procedures led to wrongful convictions, reports the Texas city’s American-Statesman. Officials said they are reviewing case studies, scientific data and the policies of other police agencies to learn the best practices for photo lineups. They also are discussing potential guidelines with prosecutors and studying data from the Justice Project, a nonprofit that has researched lineups.
The new policies should be in use in the next several months. The effort comes amid a growing national debate about police lineups. Numerous organizations, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Bar Association, have urged changes. The Justice Project said only 12 percent of Texas law enforcement agencies that responded to a recent survey have written policies for photo or live lineups that follow widely endorsed practices. The group said faulty eyewitness identification played a role in more than 75 percent of the 223 exonerations using DNA in the country. Mistaken witness identifications is the leading cause of wrongful convictions.