As police departments across the United States embrace the use of police body-worn cameras, it is imperative that prosecutors be involved in the process as early as possible. The cameras will inevitably capture a great deal of evidentiary material that will be used in every type of criminal prosecution. Thus, systems and policies must be developed to ensure that this evidence is properly captured and delivered to the prosecutor in a timely and usable way, and that prosecutors have the resources to view, store and redact the recordings.
The Committee: The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys (VACA) Committee on Justice and Professionalism, established in September of 2014, serves as a forum for Virginia prosecutors to share information, collaborate on case reviews, remain current on legal and investigative trends, and avoid erroneous convictions. Committee members include elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys and deputies from a diverse range of counties and cities throughout Virginia. The committee had initially been funded in part by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and now is supported by VACA.
Best Practices Committee
The Committee: Established in 2013, the NCCDA Best Practices Committee includes both elected district attorneys and senior assistant district attorneys, who represent a diverse collection of the state’s districts. The committee recommends procedures that enhance the truth-seeking function critical to all investigations and prosecutions; analyzes ethical issues and generates updates for prosecutors on cases and rules that affect the ethical obligations of prosecutors; and develops efficient and effective management procedures and guidelines for the processing of certain case types and issues.
The Committee: The KCDAA’s Best Practices Committee has 20 members, both elected district attorneys and assistant prosecutors representing small, medium and large jurisdictions from different parts of the state. The committee meets in person at least four times per year and corresponds over email or by conference calls in the intervening months. For an overview of the committee, click here.
This eyewitness identification toolkit provides prosecutors with an overview of the research behind witness memory and offers guidance for developing identification procedures. Prosecutors should take the lead in making sure that the identification procedures used in their state yield reliable, admissible evidence. The first step is to learn what procedures their police departments are using and to determine if they are fair and reliable.
Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence is available to prosecutors to offer further assistance on the issues briefly described below.
Encryption of smartphones and other digital media has thwarted law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe. Even with a lawfully issued search warrant, the information requested cannot be accessed from encrypted phones. This loss of evidence is referred to as “Going Dark.”
To demonstrate the real dangers of Going Dark, we need to hear about your affected cases. Helpful examples include cases where evidence in a smart phone is unattainable due to encryption, but could have been critical in solving cases such as a homicide, a robbery, a lost child, or a terrorist attack.
Implicit Bias Toolkit for Prosecutors
As we know, prosecutors must be fact-based and fair in the pursuit of justice. Prosecutors cannot base their judgements on whim, bias or hunches. Studies have shown that all people have implicit biases that could influence their decisions. Training can help prosecutors to understand this issue and provide strategies for assuring that prosecutorial decisions are based on the facts and not predisposed by irrelevant implicit biases.