Digital Technology in Photo Line-ups

A photo spread is a spreadsheet criterion for arranging and analyzing photo collections. It enhances the existing spreadsheet paradigm in two different ways. First, a photo spread holds sets of photos annotated with tags which allow the manipulation of the objects and refer to the tags. Secondly, the photos can be re-arranged by dragging and dropping procedures on the spreadsheet. A compiled photo spread will consist of a collection of different photos on the same spreadsheet. A compiled photo spreadsheet is mainly used by detectives and officers investigating cases. They are used to assist in the identification of suspects (Gasienica, 2007).


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Problems/issues with the compiled photo spread

There are many problems and issues that are associated with the use of compiled photo spread. To start with, there are some police departments that limit their use by the junior law enforcers such as the patrol police. Photo line-up can only be used for identification of suspects by the detectives or other senior officers in such police departments. This is justified on the grounds that it sustains the integrity of an investigation. In such should the identification of a suspect require a photo line-up then the investigator will be required to seek the endorsement of a supervisor (Malpass, 2002).

Another problem with a photo line-up is that it is never independent since it I based on previously developed evidenced. This is because a suspect can not appear in the photo line-up unless the investigator is absolutely sure that he/she was really involved in the crime under investigations.

Another issue with photo line-up is that it largely depends on the victim/witness. The victim/suspect can make errors in the identification making the process unreliable. Where the victim/suspect previously knew the suspect, this method I however accepted. Unless this is the case, then this process should be last option for the investigator (Malpass, 2002). Finally, a positive outcome from a photo line-up is only a piece of good evidence to the case. It can not be conclusive evidence to any investigation. Considering the entire process of creating the photo line-up and the presentation, then this is unfair that the identification is only good evidence to the case (Malpass, 2002).

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Persons presented with photo spread

Photo spreads are usually presented to victims and/or witnesses of a crime in order to identify a suspect and facilitate the investigation process through the creation of an extra piece of evidence. Eye witnesses to a crime can be presented with the photo spread to positively identify the suspect and speed up the investigation. Victims of a crime are presented with the photo line-up to identify the suspect if they actually saw the suspect and they are in a position to correctly identify them.

Appropriate photo spread presentation

A well-compiled photo spread should consist of more than six photographs. The photos included in the photo spread should be similar in both size and appearance. For instance, the photos should bear the same color and color intensity.The individuals in the photo spread should be similar in various aspects such as sex, age, race and the general physique. If for instance, one person has a mustache, the rest should also have it. The photo spread should not be presented with two suspects of the same crime.The other five individuals in such a photo spread must not have been involved in the crime under investigation, according to the known facts of the case (Plohetski, 2009).

In presenting the photo line-up, an investigator should be careful to show it to only one victim/witness at a time. One victim/witness might influence the decision made by another. The two or more who view the photo line-up might also decide to point out to a particular person. Never instruct the victim/witness in any manner. This is because this might influence the identification. This will make the identification a flop. The investigator should only state that the suspect could be in the photo line-up or not. Another official should be present when presenting the photo line-up to act as a witness of the process (Plohetski, 2009).

The investigator should ask the victim/witness whether they are certain of the identification if a particular suspect is identified. Of course, the best result from the presentation is a positive identification though the report should state clearly the circumstances and the results of the same. This is because once a photo line-up has been presented it turns into exculpatory evidence regardless of the outcome of the identification. The presentation and the outcome must be recorded in the investigator’s evidence control units (Plohetski, 2009).

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Compiling an appropriate photo line-up

An appropriate photo line-up can be compiled by utilizing the services of technology. Digitally stored photos are available for the preparation an appropriate photo line-up courtesy of technology. Special software enables investigators to develop similar photos through the use of the suspect’s physical characteristics. The software sometimes will make the photos look alike especially where there is a large collection of photos. This is very good for a photo line-up since it results to a better photo line-up which makes the identification reliable. In an instance where the suspect has a clearly visible tattoo on the face, technology should enable the investigator to cover the particular part with the tattoo for all the suspects. This is because the witness or victim would expect to find a suspect with a tattoo. The covers should be similar in order to get a strong and reliable identification. Such an action may, however, require the approval of the prosecutor although most of them will not question an investigator’s creativity (Plohetski, 2009).

An appropriate photo line-up should be compiled in such a way that the investigator is fully convinced that the suspect in the line-up was involved in the crime. This condition will be achieved by conducting a prior investigation to determine the suspect’s participation in the crime. This is because a photo line-up based on evidence whose extent reaches the probable cause will only lead to further justification of the cause which is not strong evidence. Where photo line-up presentation based on probable cause is inevitable, the investigator should ascertain that the suspect was not in custody when the crime was committed. This can be done through the use of photo ID (Plohetski, 2009).


Although the photo line-ups provide good evidence to a case, they have various issues and problems surrounding them. A positive outcome from a photo line-up is only a piece of good evidence to the case. It can not be conclusive evidence to any investigation.They are not thus independent since they depend on previous evidence for construction and further investigation to back them in the prosecution of a suspect (Plohetski, 2009).

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