Tag Archives: wilbur smith

An External Review Is a Win-Win to Review the Nate Allen Fiasco

FMPD is confident that an internal audit will be sufficient to review the errors that led to Nate Allen being wrongfully detained for more than five hours. However, Allen and his attorneys at the Wilbur Smith Law Firm are asking the city to bring in an outside agency, such as the FBI or FDLE (The Florida Department of Law Enforcement). Here’s the thing… EVERYBODY ought to be on board with an outside review. Transparency is good for everybody.

The City of Fort Myers should want an outside review. If the review is conducted by an independent agency, and finds no wrongdoing or cover-up, then the public will have confidence in that result. On the contrary, if there was wrongdoing, egregious errors, or a cover-up, then we all want to know about it. If there is a problem, it’s a good thing if the outside agency roots it out, so the problem can be fixed, and it doesn’t happen again. The City, and its citizens, all stand to benefit from an outside review. I encourage the city to bring in an outside agency, and release all the related documents.

Further, I would recommend that there be a review of the FMPD policy. If the policy still encourages a suggestive, one-person procedure, it should be updated. The State Attorney’s Office already pointed out that an unduly suggestive procedure was used to mis-identify Nate Allen. Steps should be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Scientific studies and best practices recommend the following:

  • train all law enforcement officers in eyewitness identification
  • conduct lineups and photo arrays blindly
  • establish standardized witness instructions
  • immediately ask the witness about his or her level of confidence in the identification
  • videotape the entire eyewitness identification procedure

More information about best practices can be found on the DOJ’s “COPS” Community Policing Dispatch. Check out the article from December, “When it Comes to Eyewitness ID Best Practices, the Science is Settled.”

The law is also settled:

“Given the potential for misidentification if suggestive procedures are employed, courts have recognized that “[t]he practice of showing suspects singly to persons for the purpose of identification, and not as part of a lineup, has been widely condemned.”Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 302, 87 S.Ct. 1967, 1972, 18 L.Ed.2d 1199 (1967); Perez v. State, 648 So.2d 715, 719 (Fla.1995); Blanco v. State, 452 So.2d 520, 524 (Fla.1984),cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1181, 105 S.Ct. 940, 83 L.Ed.2d 953 (1985)” Macias v. State, 673 So.2d 176 (Fla. 4th DCA 1196).

FMPD Doubles Down on Keeping Allen Investigation In House

Wilbur Smith, name partner of the law firm that represents Mr. Allen, sent a formal letter to the city asking for an outside review of policies. This additionally noteworthy as Mr. Smith served as Fort Myers mayor several years back.

However, FMPD Chief Doug Baker has responded that he intends to keep the investigation in house. This, in spite of comments he made off camera to WINK News that he doesn’t think his officers did anything wrong. That WINK article has been replaced by one that includes Baker’s on camera responses. However, it still appears that he has already made up his mind that officers acted appropriately.

Keep in mind, it may have been appropriate for officers to stop and detain Allen based on the description if the description matched. There seems to be some dispute whether it did. It was not appropriate, as the State Attorney has said, to use an unduly suggestive procedure to ID Mr. Allen.

The FMPD should adopt a policy that favors using lineups for identification, and only uses one person ID when there are major exigent circumstances. Technology today allows for a 6-pack (a 6 person photo lineup) to be generated quite quickly. Best practices would involve presenting the lineup double-blind (that is, the presenter doesn’t know who the suspect is, so as to not subconsciously tip off the witness). Changes need to be made to the FMPD policy. An outside agency should be called in for a review, to ensure the integrity of the investigation.

Our earlier Nate Allen coverage: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/tag/nate-allen/