A number of times at the blog I’ve stressed the importance of police and people in general being able to accurately identify people by their facial appearance. Face memory is one way in which accurate identifications can be made, and misidentification be avoided, but record-keeping of photographs is another means by which people can be identified by face. When the police and other authorities in jobs that have power over others make mistakes in identifying people, the consequences can be serious and embarrassing. This month “A man mistaken for an escaped Graylands patient was picked up by police, detained at the hospital and given strong antipsychotic drugs, which caused him to fall ill before authorities realised their mistake.” Graylands is Western Australia’s public mental hospital. You wouldn’t want to be put there without good reason. The young man who was mistakenly incarcerated in the psychiatric hospital was Aboriginal, and I presume the man he was mistaken for is also indigenous. If the heart of the mistake was a mistake in face recognition by a non-Aboriginal person, then the cross-race effect could possibly be cited as an explanation for the mistake, but really, such a grave error cannot be in any way excused. In today’s West Australian newspaper there is a fresh anonymous allegation that another man has been mistakenly identified as an escaped psychiatric patient by police and returned to Graylands. It would be interesting to know the race of that man. This kind of disastrous mistake must not be allowed to happen again.
Wrong man held and drugged by Graylands. Rhianna King and Amanda Banks The West Australian. Updated December 26, 2012. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/15710341/wrong-man-held-and-drugged-by-graylands/
Cross-race effect. (2012, December 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:32, December 29, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cross-race_effect&oldid=526957635