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Tunnel Vision

May 4, 2009

Ever heard of the concept of tunnel vision? You probably have when you were in an argument with someone and they accused you of having tunnel vision in not seeing all the issues involved in the argument. In other words, you shut out or ignored some important information that would have made a difference in the resolution of the argument or in settling the conflict one way or another.

Police officers have often been accused of having tunnel vision when working some types of crimes. The problem with tunnel vision is that it may result in the wrongful conviction of an innocent person, which of course goes totally against what the police are striving to do in the first place.

Often tunnel vision is attributed to situations where the police feel they have a solid suspect and then instead of checking out other avenues of investigation, focus solely on the one person. This in turn results in them looking for the evidence that suits their assumption the suspect is guilty. If there is evidence that shows the person may not be guilty, it may be ignored (confirmation bias).

Another sad, but undeniably true fact is that in some instances, police misconduct plays a part in charging and convicting a person who may be innocent but for the want of more evidence that shows s/he is not. How do you avoid this awkward situation? How do you avoid having tunnel vision? Good question, and one that deserves a lot of thought on your part.

You will, when you graduate, face lots of situations where you will be dealing with people who are suspected of having committed a crime. Are you balanced enough, fair enough, persistent enough and intuitive enough to not jump to conclusions too fast? Do you have the time and the patience to take things just one-step further to double check your information?

While this might sound like an easy thing to do, double-checking your information, in a criminal investigation, that might be next to impossible because witnesses have a habit of vanishing at the most awkward times. The thing of it is this, if you don’t feel something is quite right, will you listen to that “gut instinct” and try to figure out what isn’t right?

Police officers don’t deliberately work to convict the wrong person, but the circumstances might be that it is easier to do that than spend more time and money getting to the bottom of the case. This is a tough question to roll around in your mind, as each case is different. Give it some thought and discuss it you’re your classmates, your online buddies and with us. We’ve been in the field and dealt with situations like this, so we definitely have insights to offer.

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