Lineup investigations are not used as often as you might think compared to how they are used on TV and in movies. The general public doesn’t have a solid understanding of what real lineups are like. There are both good and bad things about this practice, but it’s important to note that this is a fairly unreliable means of identifying a suspect in New York and beyond.
How accurate are police lineups?
The accuracy of lineups is questionable. This is because memory can be faulty, with the witness only able to pick out certain standout features that may be nearly indistinguishable from at least one other person in the group. They might not remember specific traits that would help them identify the suspect. It can be disastrous to rely on only one or a few people to make such a decision quickly from viewing a group of people in a room or a photo.
Using sequential photo arrays
There is something to be said for showing witnesses a six-pack or more of potential suspect photos sequentially, that is, one after the other. This is preferable to showing the photos all at the same time. However, when they view the photos together, they tend to identify the guilty individual more often than otherwise.
Double-blind procedure is ideal
Having a double-blind procedure regarding a lineup is in everyone’s best interest. The investigator should be unaware of the true identity of the suspect so that they don’t subconsciously put their attention on the guilty individual and cause the witness(es) to do this, as well. If this isn’t the case, the lineup administrator should at least stand out of the sight line of the witness.
Lineup investigations are different in reality than many people expect. There are several points of consideration that a lineup administrator should keep in mind when they conduct this procedure to keep it as pure and accurate as possible.