DOI: 10.1002/acp.4158 ISSN: 0888-4080

Police officers have no advantage over civilians when making identifications

Daniel Reisberg, Kathy Pezdek
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Some courts have ruled that identification evidence provided by a police officer is more likely to be accurate than comparable evidence provided by a civilian. Identifications made by a police officer are therefore given greater weight and, for these identifications, otherwise‐required procedures and safeguards might be deemed superfluous. We describe the available evidence that examines these notions and argue that police officers actually have no advantage at all over civilians when making identifications. In a recent publication, however, Tupper et al. (2023, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 37, 845–860) offer data that they suggest challenge this claim. We argue that their data, when appropriately analyzed, once again show no police advantage. Their findings therefore converge with the results of 12 prior studies, comparing the identification accuracy for police officers and civilians. We conclude that the best summary of the available data is that the suggestion of a police officer identification advantage is a myth.

More from our Archive