Maybe she’ll pick him out again…

You lot again?

Ask anyone what it is that police do all day and the following things are likely to feature in one way or another – driving through piles of cardboard boxes, chasing bad guys across rooftops, throwing our badges at the lieutenant, crewing up with someone who only has one day until retirement, eating doughnuts, lining up dodgy suspects for an ID parade.

Whilst we do indeed do all of the above on a regular basis, it’s the ID parade that I’m going to concentrate on in this post. What are they, why do we do them and are they really like they look in the movies?

No, they’re not.

Before we get to the procedure itself though, why do we have to do them in the first place?

An ID parade is basically a process that helps us either strengthen the case against a suspect or eliminate them from an investigation. They’ll be held when a suspect disputes that he or she was the person seen by a witness during the commission of an offence.

To give an example, I’ll call upon my go to criminal, Billy*, who has just been seen by two witnesses running out of a butchers on the high street clutching strings of stolen sausages. The police arrive at the scene, take notes of Billy’s description from the two witnesses and then after a brief search locate Billy around the corner. As he matches the description given he’s arrested under suspicion of theft.

Back at the station Billy is interviewed and decides to deny that he was involved in the incident. “Well officers, the awful criminal responsible for this crime certainly sounds like he looks a lot like me but I had nothing to do with it” he says. He’s asked if he’s willing to take part in an ID parade and he agrees, hence an Inspector comes to see him and formally serves the written request for the parade.

It’s at this point that many people might think the officers will begin calling around for people who look a bit like Billy to come and stand next to him in a line up.

What actually happens is that Billy is sat down in the same photo booth that would have been used to take his custody photo. A member of the custody staff strikes a few keys on the keyboard, a short video is made of Billy’s face and is then sent remotely to the ID bureau at Police HQ. For Billy’s involvement, this is the ID parade done and dusted.

At the ID bureau the staff access their database and select eleven other similar looking video captures which they put together as part of an ID package. This package is then sent back to the officers so that it can be shown to the witnesses.

As the officers who are investigating the theft are not allowed to be involved in the ID parade (to avoid any suggestion that they could have influenced witnesses), they ask an independent officer to meet the two witnesses at the police station and separately show them the ID film. Having picked out Billy as the same person they saw nicking the sausages, they complete statements saying as much and with these the case against Billy is strengthened and he should be able to be sent to court.

The rules surrounding identification procedures are covered by Code D of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and whilst the above overview is hopefully fairly straightforward, ID can be a fairly complicated area to get your head around. It can also be fun with us occasionally having to dress suspects up in funny hats and scarfs to hide scars and tattoos!

If you’re asked as a witness to take part in an ID parade then it’s certainly not something that should cause any concern. It’s one of the few areas of policing that isn’t really like it is in the movies – no frightening criminals and no one way glass. More likely its a cup of tea, a comfy ID suite with sofas and ten minutes spent strengthening the case against the bad guys.

* For other adventures involving Billy, see this post about public order offences and this one about police custody.

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8 Responses to “Maybe she’ll pick him out again…”

  1. 1 coffindodgersassoc 27/03/2012 at 07:36

    Well we know the do’nut bit’s true…

  2. 2 walnut95 27/03/2012 at 20:25

    we have all read about you nipping in the shops for goodies ! chocky bars etc ! Great piece again.

    When do you get your exam results?

    Can we have a blog from your Traffic Officer trainer as to what happens at a RTA, what you do and why it takes so long to re-open a road afterwards?

  3. 4 REALFRONTLINE 28/03/2012 at 14:15

    The service is getting pulled apart and sold off by the Condems and their stooges in ACPO & SMT. The bosses who have stabbed us in the back and sold us out for whatever amount of pieces of gold and honours they were promised.

    And you’re posting this drivel??????

    No doubt in a few years, you will be one of them at this rate. Hope you feel proud to look in the mirror in the morning.

    • 5 jaded48 28/03/2012 at 20:27

      Harsh but true……….

    • 6 PC Richard Stanley 29/03/2012 at 00:54

      I don’t see how that’s relevant – this is a blog written for the public and I focus on writing about what the police do and how the law is applied so that people better understand our role. There are plenty of other sites more appropriate for discussions on pay and conditions.


  4. 7 Anonymous 29/03/2012 at 22:04

    ‘…and with these the case against Billy is strengthened and he should be able to be sent to court.’

    A prosecution case is rarely ‘strengthened’ by ID evidence like a parade or photo-lineup, most of the time it simply confirms what police and prosecutors already know based upon other evidence like CCTV or witnesses who know the name of the suspect. 9/10 times doing an ID parade will weaken your case because the witness, who is only human, won’t pick out the suspect.

    Say what you like about PACE, but it really is a defence lawyers charter because it a) forces police to conduct a procedure virtually guaranteed to strengthen a defence case and b)engages police in an insanely complex and time consuming procedure.

  5. 8 MTG 29/03/2012 at 22:10

    “It’s at this point that many people might think the officers will begin calling around for people who look a bit like Billy to come and stand next to him in a line up.”

    Most citizens will accept theatrical versions of policing in good faith that producers and script writers have done their homework. I don’t always comment but please accept my thanks for yet another informative post.

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