Facial identification from CCTV: investigating predictors of exceptional performance amongst police officers
Davis, J.P., Lander, K., Evans, R. and Neville, M. (2012) Facial identification from CCTV: investigating predictors of exceptional performance amongst police officers. In: European Association of Psychology and Law 2012, 10-13 Apr 2012, Nicosia, Cyprus. (Unpublished)Full text not available from this repository.
CCTV coverage has become increasingly ubiquitous around the world. This has led to progressively more criminal investigations employing visual images as primary evidence. Like many forces, the London Metropolitan Police have created an online ‘wanted’ website displaying such images, for identification by potential witnesses familiar with those depicted. A number of police officers, some winning official commendations have been extremely successful at identifying offenders depicted on this website, enhancing detection and conviction rates. A strict protocol is followed to ensure no accusations of collusion and some of these identifications have been based on previous encounters, sometimes many months or years before. The purpose of this research was to examine whether these officers could be regarded as ‘super-recognisers’ as described in the literature, as well as to attempt to uncover any advanced cognitive skills underpinning this ability. A second aim was to make recommendations as to the best manner in which images should be displayed on this type of website. Nineteen officers, age-matched with controls, were tested on two unfamiliar face recognition tests, a familiar recognition test in which degraded images were depicted both moving and still; a face matching test; a source monitoring test and an object (flowers) recognition test. An additional face matching test was conducted with participants using eye tracking equipment. Initial results have revealed that hit rates across the unfamiliar and familiar face-based tests by some police officers were close to ceiling. The highest performing officers also tended to make more correct rejections. However, some of the controls were also extremely accurate. Indeed, the controls performed significantly better than the officers on the object recognition test. Moreover, a few police officers performed extremely poorly on some face-based tests. Initial investigations have revealed that the high numbers of CCTV identifications by these officers have often been of highly familiar repeat local offenders. Further analyses are underway, but for website construction, displaying a single offender image that can be immediately linked to additional images, either still or preferably moving, appears to increase the likelihood of identification from CCTV footage.
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