Portland police had a suspect in a string of bank robberies in 2017 but they had a problem, he didn’t match the description of any of the tellers who had been robbed. The suspect, Tyrone Allen, has multiple, distinctive facial tattoos, and none of the victims observed any tattoos on the robber. Instead of trying to generate a new suspect that matched the description, the cops decided to double down on Mr. Allen. In order to make him look like the suspect in the robberies (some of which were capture on surveillance video), a technician digitally removed the tattoos from a picture of Mr. Allen. These manipulated photos were then placed in a photo-lineup and a couple of the victims identified Mr. Allen. He is no facing multiple robbery charges. Here’s a side-by-side comparision:
This tactic is extremely troubling, as it increases the potentiality for mis-identification. For that reason, Allen’s attorneys have asked the court not to permit the identifications to be presented to a jury. Courts have often held that identification procedures, if they are unduly suggestive, are not permissible. I’ve never seen this extremely concerning procedure, but it certainly appears to raise concerns that there is a high risk of an erroneous identification. It’s troubling that a man who was not identified by witnesses was only identified after his image was airbrushed.