How Police Can Reduce Wrongful Convictions


Recent high-profile exonerations have highlighted systemic failures and cognitive biases that may be fixed through a system-wide approach to learning from wrongful convictions, according to a new paper released by the National Institute of Justice.

Anthony Batts, commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Madeline deLeone, executive director of the Innocence Project, examine several exonerations and discuss in the paper what investigations of errors in other fields, such as medicine, can teach law enforcement about preventing wrongful convictions.

“Twenty years of study have helped identify the leading factors that help contribute to wrongful convictions — eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, untruthful informants, unvalidated or improper forensic science, government misconduct and ineffective legal representation,” the authors write.

They recommend several evidence-based police practices related to eyewitness identification, interrogation, informant procedures and evidence preservation and storage.

Among their recommendations, the authors call for police departments to implement organizational accident models that allow personnel “to review errors as systemwide weaknesses instead of single-cause mistakes.”

Read the full paper HERE.

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