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A new paper examines the systematic causes of wrongful criminal convictions and potential solutions to benefit both law enforcement and communities.
"Policing and Wrongful Convictions" [pdf] is published as part of the New Perspectives in Policing Series under the auspices of the Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
The authors, experienced professionals from policing and legal advocacy, come together to call for the field of policing to take the lead in reviewing cases, learning lessons, and changing practice to prevent the innocent from becoming swept into the criminal justice system and eventually convicted of crimes they did not commit.
As Darrel Stephens, a long time police executive and one of the paper's authors says, “Police have always been concerned about the guilty going free because of a legal technicality; we should be even more concerned with an innocent person being wrongfully convicted. This paper makes specific recommendations for the police to help prevent wrongful convictions.”
The recommendations draw upon many best practices that have emerged in recent years.
Maddy de Lone, author and executive director of the Innocence Project, attributes much learning to the lessons learned through DNA exonerations, and says “we have learned a great deal about how to prevent wrongful convictions. Adopting these best practices protects the innocent and helps police better use their limited resources to focus on catching the real perpetrators. We thank the many in law enforcement who have already adopted these proven reforms and encourage them to talk to their colleagues in other jurisdictions about how they have benefited their work."