This Is Why We Can't Rely on Police Sketches

Seth Abramovitch · 07/01/11 12:24AM

How's this for a nightmare: Lanell Dowling, a 26-year-old man from Brooklyn, was thrown into jail last year after someone told the cops that he looked exactly like the sketch of a violent mugger posted around the neighborhood. They looked into it, and wow! Even the Precinct commander remarked to the press at the time, "I've never seen something like that before," meaning how uncanny the similarity was. (Wait — isn't that the point?) So, convinced were they that they had their man, because — come on, have you seen the sketch? — they showed him to the four victims for positive identification. "Yup!" they said. "That's him!"