The Importance of Law Enforcement

As quoted by Schuster (2007) from the American Judicature Society, misidentification by the eyewitness was the leading cause of wrongful conviction in more than 75% of the first 183 DNA exonerations in the United States. From this statement, questions arise on the effectiveness of the methods used by the police in letting the eyewitness identify suspects from photographic and live lineups that are commonly used in the US police departments.There are two kinds of lineups: simultaneous and sequential. In a simultaneous lineup, the eyewitness views all the people or photos at the same time, while in a consequential lineup, people or photographs are presented to the witness one at a time. Both lineups have their disadvantages. In the simultaneous lineup, most preferred by law enforcers, Schuster (2007) quoted that witnesses use relative judgment rather than their memory. This means that they just compare the lineups with each other and choose the one that closely resembles the perpetrator. This becomes a problem most especially when the perpetrator is not present in the lineup because the eyewitness can just pick anyone that closely resembles the perpetrator. In a consequential line-up, on the other hand, a decision should be made about the current lineup before moving to the next. As such, the eyewitness oftentimes relies on the use of absolute judgment in which witnesses compare each lineup on what he or she thinks the offender looks like.Aside from the disadvantages, Schuster (2007) also quoted variables that can affect the outcome of police lineups. These are the pre-lineup instructions given to the witness, the physical characteristics of the fillers, similarities or differences between the witness’ and suspect’s age, race, or ethnicity, and incident characteristics such as the use of force or weapons.