New Pittsburgh Safety Chief: Police Refuse Prosecutor’s Witness ID Demand


On his first full day on the job, Pittsburgh public safety director Stephen Bucar said the city police bureau will not adopt practices on eyewitness identification demanded by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. “Although the model is endorsed by certain academic and research facilities, there is dissenting opinion in those same communities that disputes the conclusion that the best practice for eyewitness identification procedure lies with a sequential process rather than a simultaneous process,” Bucar said.

The issue revolves around how eyewitnesses are shown suspect photographs. In a simultaneous process, typically a set of six or eight photographs of similarly looking suspects is placed on a single page shown to the witness. In a sequential process, the witness is shown each individual suspect's photograph one at a time. This year, the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association adopted a new model policy for identification using sequential photo lineups, and last week Zappala told city officials telling them that his office would only prosecute suspects where the evidence against them is such an ID. This district attorney said his office would not prosecute cases in which the identification came solely from a simultaneous photo array. Bucar, a former FBI agent, said the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance has not concluded that the sequential procedure is more reliable, and that there is debate in the academic community about whether a sequential process is better.

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