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Double Blind Photo Lineups To Curb False Identification In Baltimore City

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—In an effort to cut down on what can be devastating mistakes, Baltimore Police are making major changes to the way the department conducts photo lineups.

Monique Griego has more on what drove the commissioner to take action.

The commissioner admits mistakes have been made in the past. He believes these changes can help fix what many consider to be a flawed system.

When a crime is committed, an eyewitness account can be crucial to an investigation. But it's also where devastating mistakes can be made.

In an effort to curtail misidentifications, Baltimore Police are making major changes to photo lineups.

"Double blind sequential photo array is an extremely progressive technique," said Commissioner Anthony Batts, Baltimore Police Department.

Starting this week, the department switched to a double blind lineup. That means neither the person showing the lineup nor the witness knows which picture is the real suspect.

In the past, only the witness was in the dark. Police say the change is to make sure officers don't unintentionally influence or sway the person.

"Detectives are emotionally involved in the case, as well as the victims. You now have a third-party independent administrator that presents the array," said Deputy Commissioner John Skinner, Investigations and Intelligence Bureau.

According to the Innocence Project, an organization that works to free the wrongly convicted, nearly 75 percent of all DNA exonerations are tied to eyewitness misidentifications.

"These changes promise to not only protect the innocent but help to protect public safety by better identifying the true perpetrators of a crime," said Rebecca Brown, Innocence Project.

In addition to the double blind, Baltimore Police are also changing the way they present photo lineups--going from all of the pictures being on one page to presenting them to the witness one by one.

"Victims and witnesses tend to compare photographs and make assumptions," Skinner said.

The city's top prosecutor believes both changes will greatly improve the credibility of the city's criminal justice system.

The changes will "help to make ensure that individuals are convicted based on credible, reliable evidence," said State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein.

Baltimore Police began using the new system this week.

The commissioner says he decided to make the change after working with Harvard on a paper to identify errors in law enforcement and how to fix them.

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