I have the privilege of instructing new procedures on how to conduct photographic line-ups. The new procedures were developed through the work of the State Bar of Michigan Task force on Eyewitness Identification. After being trained by a Police Chief from Connecticut I have been traveling the State with the training.
I was challenged recently by an attorney who was skeptical if law enforcement was listening to the training especially when I highlight how misidentification can occur with current procedures. My response to him was that no police officer I know or have known wants to see the wrong person go to jail. If for no other reason than the actual perpetrator is out continuing to commit crimes. But overall we always strive to do the “right thing”, mistakes happen as they do in any profession.
To believe that law enforcement is infallible is either self-serving to prove a point or establish a position or very naïve. This is a people business and the police are people. As Sir Robert Peel put it, the police are the people and the people are the police. This is a dynamic profession that changes daily. We accept our mistakes, adjust and move on. It is not just the responsibility of the police to accept blame, but it is for everyone involved in the community especially those in leadership even outside of law enforcement.
I had the opportunity to serve as a City Manager. I had oversight over issues such as staffing and adequate funding for training. If a mistake occurred it was my issue as well as my Police Chief’s. It was my responsibility to hire or promote the right person as the Chief and to offer them continuing training. It was my responsibility to provide the police department with the adequate tools and overall training to do their jobs. My City Council also was responsible for the overall approval of those resources. So to blame it just on the police is just not correct .
I know of no other profession that is held to such a high unattainable standard as law enforcement is. Yet we strive to be better everyday, minimize mistakes and move forward “doing the right thing” for our citizens.