Cops’ Tunnel Vision Can Yield Horrific Investigative Outcomes

Thanks goes out to our friends at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry for this recent blog post.

The goal for any criminal defendant is obviously to be found not guilty of a crime.

Recently released study findings stress that suspects should also be just about as concerned that investigators never suspect guilt in the first place.

Here’s why, say university researchers who have scrutinized scores of wrongful conviction cases: Cops who zero in on an individual often tend to view evidence in a way that supports that individual’s guilt via so-called “confirmation bias.” They ignore evidence that offers up other possibilities.

Texas State University criminologists say that such “tunnel vision” is on display in many cases where innocent individuals are wrongly convicted. It spawns dire and sometimes unfathomably sad consequences.

Researchers Kim Rossmo and Joycelyn Pollock say that cops’ narrow focus needs to be consciously and systematically guarded against. It has led to draconian outcomes for legions of persons wrongly spotlighted in probes and thereafter pursued by law enforcers with “strong incentives to quickly identify the perpetrators of highly publicized crimes.”

Such crimes are often violent, which results in exceptionally lengthy prison terms for the wrongly convicted. The advocacy group Innocence Project has presented contradictory proofs in hundreds of cases that freed innocent parties in recent years.

Rossmo and Pollock say that investigators suffering from tunnel vision too often “pursue a single-minded course of action.” Doing so ignores or minimizes evidence pointing toward innocence rather than guilt.

The researchers say that “the purpose is to get an admission” for biased investigators embarked on interrogations.

To read the dissertation “The Effect of Confirmation Bias in Criminal Investigative Decision Making” by Wayne A. Wallace at Walden University, click here.

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