Police as Eyewitnesses

Criminal cases often hinge on the testimony of eyewitnesses; sometimes those eyewitnesses are police officers. Police eyewitnesses perform the same tasks as civilian eyewitnesses: They provide descriptions to police officers during interviews, attempt to identify perpetrators from lineups, and provide testimony during court trials. Laboratory research, along with evidence from actual court cases, has shown that eyewitness identifications are often unreliable or inaccurate. It is not clear if we can expect the abilities of a police officer as an eyewitness to be better than those of the average citizen. Findings and theories from a variety of psychological disciplines provide several hypotheses about police eyewitness performance, and research that compares police with civilian performance has produced varying results. Surveys indicate that most people believe that ...

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