In a State of Vermont Police Academy class on eyewitness identification, students are tasked with scoring a fast-moving basketball game for a certain time.

At the end of the exercise, the students are asked how many saw the gorilla walk across the basketball court during the exercise. I thought the question was a setup as there was no gorilla that crossed the court. I was surprised when five out of 24 students raised their hands. Sure enough, when played in slow motion, there was a gorilla in plain view walking across the basketball court during the game we were scoring. How could I and 18 other students not have seen the gorilla?

The name of the course was Eyewitness Identification: The Least Reliable Means of Identification. Students would learn there are many factors that affect human perceptions, and why it is important to supplement eye-witness information with additional evidence. The point is, not all people watching the same events see the same things. A video camera is not subject to the same deficits as the human eye. Were the 19 students who denied a gorilla crossed the court not being truthful? Of course, not.

The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled there must be evidence of intent to deceive before a police officer can be disciplined for not being truthful. States Attorney Rose Kennedy needs to take this class. Her position a police officer should see every detail a video camera records or be subject to questions of credibility, holds police officers to a standard of perfection not available in the human experience. It is the very reason police use video.

John Paul Faignant

Rutland Town

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