Presidential Plenary Session: Law Enforcement’s Role in Preventing Wrongful Convictions

Have you ever been kicked in the stomach? That is how Chief Mike Corley felt when he learned that a person he helped send to prison was innocent. Chief Corley was the lead investigator in a brutal rape case that occurred in 1985. The victim identified the suspect from a photo lineup; a jury convicted and sentenced the perpetrator to two life sentences. In 2008, however, DNA evidence cleared the person after he had served 23 years behind bars.

The mistaken arrest, prosecution and conviction of individuals are issues that law enforcement must take a leadership role in addressing.  As Chief Corley has said, “I cannot explain how a good witness makes a bad identification.” But, he does know that “it can happen to any witness and any police department.” He is emphatic that: “As law enforcement leaders, we must challenge ourselves and our subordinates to use the best procedures. The consequences are too high.”

Recognizing the consequences of a miscarriage of justice, IACP President Walter McNeil made the prevention of wrongful convictions a part of his 2012 presidential policy agenda. Last month, the IACP, in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), held a National Summit on Wrongful Convictions. The goal of was to examine the issue of wrongful conviction across the entire justice system with a focus on the leadership role of law enforcement in addressing this problem.

To continue to focus on this critical criminal justice issue, President McNeil will host a plenary session at the 119th Annual IACP Conference. Panelists, which will include Chief Corley and the crime victim from his case, will discuss investigative practices, including eyewitness identification, sequential line-ups, confessions, and investigative biases. Panelists will also discuss other areas that affect an investigation such as training on forensic issues, evidence collection/preservation/retention, and protocols for identification procedures and recording interviews.

This important plenary session will take place in Room 6A at the San Diego Convention Center on Sunday, September 30th from 1:00 PM-3:00 PM.

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