Use of facial composite systems in US law enforcement agencies

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Facial composite images are often used in the criminal investigation process to facilitate the search for and identification of someone who has committed a crime. Since the use of facial composite images is sometimes relied upon as an integral part of an investigation, it is important to ascertain information about the various decisions made and procedures implemented by law enforcement regarding the use of composites. A 39-item survey was developed to examine the prevalence of a number of procedures related to composite production, including the systems implemented, criteria for selecting systems, law enforcement training, satisfaction with systems, legal challenges, and procedural issues with respect to interviewing multiple witnesses and the distribution of composite images. Surveys were distributed to 1637 city, state and county law enforcement agencies nationwide; 163 completed surveys were returned. This paper summarizes our survey results and discusses the implications for investigative procedures, law enforcement training, and future research needs.

Keywords: Facial composites; eyewitness identification; eyewitness recall; police survey; police training

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Arizona State University, Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences, 4701 W. Thunderbird Rd, Glendale, AZ, 85306, USA 2: Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University, El Paso, TX, 79968, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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