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Wrongful Arrest Results in Police ID Reform Bill

In the spring of 2018, Charles Battle II had no idea that he would become the focal point of his local community’s struggle to reform the way police interact with its citizens. But now he’s as engaged in the struggle as he’s ever been.

Police detained Battle as a suspect for a robbery he had not committed, all because an eyewitness identified him as having been involved minutes prior. However, Battle was not wearing any apparel that matched witness testimony, and the witness at the time was not wearing her glasses. The only thing Battle had in common with the suspect description is that he was young and Black. Nevertheless, he was arrested and kept in police custody. It wasn’t until six months later that the Denver District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges for lack of evidence. His mother said, “He’s been traumatized. He says, ‘Mom, any day I leave I could not come home.’”

The police technique used to identify Charles is informally known as a “showup.” Unlike the traditional technique of having witnesses pick the suspect out of a lineup of several potential suspects (or to pick from a photo array, which uses the same principle), police bring witnesses in person to the area of the crime to identify a potential suspect without being shown any other alternatives.

As a result of her son’s arrest, Sharon Battle collaborated with Together Colorado, a multifaith advocacy group, who spent years advocating for changes in the way law enforcement conducts witness identifications. The resulting bill has gotten bipartisan support in the Colorado legislature, and it prohibits the use of showups except in situations where lineups and photo arrays are not possible, but the potential suspect is detained “within minutes of the commission of the crime and near the location of the crime.”

Rep. Jennifer Bacon, the bill’s sponsor said, “Everyone deserves to have the right person be held accountable for these actions. You shouldn’t just be Black on the street and be thrown into the system because we can’t identify people properly.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

All of us, and especially those of us in positions of leadership, have a responsibility to behave as honorably as possible to promote justice. If our behavior injures or offends others, we have a responsibility to correct those behaviors and make things right with those who were wronged.

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