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New Method Of Identifying Suspects Taxes Small-Town Police

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WELDON, N.C. — New police officers are back in the classroom at Halifax Community College, learning the basic skills of law enforcement training. Included in the training are police photo lineups. But they aren't like they used to be.

"This was the best, because you just opened it up and say, 'Pick out the suspect' and left it at that," said veteran law enforcement instructor Walter Clement.

With six to eight pictures on one page, that method is still preferred by Clement. But the state has switched lineups to a single picture, on a separate page. Studies show some inmates were wrongly convicted because of mistaken identities.

The lineup changes mandated by the state means extra work for small-town police departments where one or two officers investigate crimes from murder to petty theft. In the past, Weldon police investigator Gene Harris could print out a lineup of six suspects on one sheet of paper.

"We can't do that anymore," said Harris. "We have to go to individual printouts."

The new lineup procedures also put investigators under more pressure to get it right.

"Probably the difficult aspect is to be consistent with your questions and mannerism, because any inclination or gesture might be suggestive, that's all that's necessary for the evidence to possibly be thrown out," said Clement.

Rookie police officers are required to learn the new lineup techniques this year. Current officers must learn the new method by 2007.


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