Posts Tagged ‘IACP’

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is one of the leading organizations for law enforcement professionals in the U.S. and around the world.  I regularly turn to their model policy and training documents when working on those issues for police agencies.  So it’s a big deal to see their new report, prepared in conjunction with their partner, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, announcing that their new effort in which they will play a leading role in fixing the problems in police investigation that cause wrongful convictions.

The report, titled, “National Summit on Wrongful Convictions: Building a Systemic Approach to Prevent Wrongful Convictions,” takes a full view of the issues that must be addressed to avoid convicting the wrong people, and announces a series of recommendations designed to bring the goal within reach.  It is based on work at a summit of people from IACP, DOJ, and a host of experts.  In a preliminary statement in the report, the President of the IACP and the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, outlined how the report came to be and what it does.

This event gathered 75 subject matter experts from all key disciplines to address and examine the causes of and solutions to wrongful convictions across the entire spectrum of the justice system. Summit participants worked diligently during this one-day intensive event to craft 30 focused policy recommendations that guide the way to our collective mission to continually improve the criminal justice system. The summit focused on four critical areas: (1) making rightful arrests, (2) correcting wrongful arrests, (3) leveraging technology and forensic science, and (4) re-examining closed cases. The 30 resulting recommendations directly address these areas and lay a critical foundation for required changes in investigative protocols, policies, training, supervision, and assessment.

The report makes thirty recommendations on a number of topics: eyewitness identifications, false confessions, preventing investigative bias, improving DNA testing procedures, CODIS, correcting wrongful arrests, leveraging technology and forensic science, and re-examining closed cases with an openness to new information.

The report is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in wrongful convictions and what can be done to correct them.  Readers of my book Failed Evidence will also recognize that the emergence of this consensus at the top of the law enforcement profession is exactly what I have called for: “Police and Prosecutors Must Lead the Effort” (pp. 158-159).

From The Crime Report, I learned that the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) gathered 70 experts from various disciplines to discuss wrongful convictions at a summit meeting last week in Alexandria, Virginia.  In his August 22 story, Ted Gest tells us “wrongful convictions worry cops,” and that the IACP called the summit to address the problem.

Given the subtitle of my book Failed Evidence — “Why Law Enforcement Resists Science” — the IACP’s interest in addressing issues that lead to wrongful convictions could be the beginning of very important changes in police attitudes and practices.  What’s behind it?

According to Walter McNeil, IACP’s President and Chief of Police of Quincy, Florida, said that police must pay attention to wrongful convictions, even if they are small in number because the damage they do to everyone involved is “irreversible.”  In an article in the IACP’s Police Chief magazine, Chief McNeil continued:

The damage goes beyond the wrongfully convicted citizen; it hurts all those involved in the case, including law enforcement and prosecutorial staff, families of the wrongfully accused, the victim of the original crime in question, and the public at large when justice is not carried out and the true guilty individual is not arrested and punished.

To this end, the summit featured working groups on “Making Rightful Arrests,” “Correcting a Wrongful Arrest,” “Technology and Forensic Issues” and “Reexamination of Closed Cases.”  This is not a bad list of places to start; if I could have made a list of ten possible topics, these four would have made it.

I did not attend the summit; it was not open to the public.  But the IACP says it will use the proceedings at the summit to issue a set of recommendations.  So while I can’t offer first-hand reporting on what went on, I find myself encouraged by the fact that the summit took place at all, and I commend the IACP for their interest in these issues.

So: could the IACP, one of the oldest and most established law enforcement professional groups in the world, become the vanguard of a movement in law enforcement to stop resisting science?

Fingers crossed.  I’d love to hear from anyone who was there.