New Policy Weighed for Police Lineups

A model for seeing past faulty eyewitness IDs

Researchers at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University are looking for feedback on the newly developed "model" police policy for conducting live or photo lineups with eyewitnesses to crime.

Lawmakers this spring passed a law requiring LEMIT to develop the policy and requiring police agencies across the state to adopt it or a similarly rigorous policy by Sept. 1, 2012 – though the law contains no mechanism for enforcement. This is no small problem in Texas, where, according to the Innocence Project of Texas, faulty eyewitness identification has been implicated in more than 80% of DNA exonerations – greater than the national average.

According to the new policy, live lineups are preferable to photo IDs because "witnesses typically view perpetrators of crimes in three dimensions," it reads. Moreover, there are cautions about selecting proper "filler" individuals in lineups to ensure those individuals are consistent with the suspect in appearance and recommendations about administering photo array lineups in sequential order, rather than in a single flop of six photos. The document warns that in order to avoid undue – and often unintentional – influence on a witness, blind administration of the lineup by a person not connected with the investigation of the crime should be used. Notably, the policy also provides a model script for officers to use during lineups, which includes warnings that the suspect may not be among those in the lineup, that the crime will continue to be investigated regardless of whether the witness selects a suspect from the lineup, and that the witness should not feel compelled to pick someone just for the sake of doing so. "It is just as important to clear innocent persons from suspicion as to identify guilty parties," reads the policy.

Without any enforcement mechanism, it is unclear how quickly the policy might be adopted – and whether the new procedures will reduce the instance of mistaken identifications. Indeed, the new law contains no provision to keep out of evidence identifications made outside the parameters of the model policy. You can see the policy online at

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More eyewitness ID
Broken Justice
Broken Justice
Exonerees testify on behalf of reforming Texas eyewitness law

Jordan Smith, March 11, 2011

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


eyewitness ID, police lineup

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle