Line Up or Cover Up? Portland Police Alter Line Up Picture In Bank Robbery Case

In decades of criminal defense work, I have never seen a case like this one. In Portland, police suspected Tyrone Lamont Allen of robbing four banks and credit unions. However, none of the tellers reported seeing his prominent facial tattoos. In a decision that should result in serious disciplinary action, the police photoshopped out the tattoos before showing the picture in a photo line up. The witnesses then identified Allen.

Police forensic criminalist Mark Weber testified that he merely “painted over the tattoos . . . like applying electronic makeup.’’ It was more than that. It was “like” altering the appearance of suspects to secure a criminal identification.

However,  Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney insisted that there was nothing wrong with the changes because “the whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out . . . These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’ That is absurd. While Maloney told the court that the changes were made to “look like the disguises that were on the robber,’’ the robber only wore a baseball hat and glasses. He did not cover his face. The preferred practice is not to alter photos for a line up. However, if the police were seeking to tailor the photo, why not put a baseball cap on each of the images rather than remove prominent facial markings?

Give the persistent unreliability of witness identification, the actual removal of identifying features is an outrageous act. We have previously discussed such cases. One study showed that roughly 75 percent of cases overturned by DNA evidence involved convictions based on eyewitness identification — often more than one such witness. Jurors are heavily influenced by such identifications in court and prosecutors know that such a witness can overcome other evidentiary shortcomings. To engineer an identification through photoshopping is therefore particularly egregious and far . . . far from “prudent.”

78 thoughts on “Line Up or Cover Up? Portland Police Alter Line Up Picture In Bank Robbery Case”

  1. Got to love Leftist, they will do anything, to try and make themselves look good. So happy it frequently backfires. Truly Orwellian.

    1. Why is this “Leftist”? I really want to know. This term is thrown around so much as a slur but I have found no reason for it. Please enlighten me.

      1. Because the case is being twisted and distorted into a social justice issue of racism when it absolutely is not. That’s why. The people who do that deserve to be condemned and denigrated.

  2. Thief used makeup to cover identifying tattoos, gets ID’d by people who know him from the surveillance video on TV despite the makeup, gets caught with some of the clothes from the robberies. The end.

  3. To those who claim he “obviously was wearing makeup.” Enough makeup to cover up those tats would have been an identifier in and of itself. “He was wearing a baseball cap and a lot of makeup.” To the person who said he was wearing the same clothes in two of the robberies. There’s no evidence for that in the story and the claim seems pretty dubious on the surface. To those that think both pictures are of the same man… you need glasses. To those who don’t really care, just lock him up. I see you!

    1. Wishing for the ability to edit my post. The pictures are of course of the same man, just altered considerably to hide a distinguishing feature. I’d love to know how many thieves covered up face tattoos with makeup rather than wear a mask?

      1. “I’d love to know how many thieves covered up face tattoos with makeup rather than wear a mask?”
        Then do what a rational person would do, Google “robbery suspect uses makeup”.
        I’d love to watch you eat those words. 🙂

            1. How did I get laveled as writing about “inner city news?” I write about a whole lot of news, most of which don’t have special relevance to the inner city. You only see me through a particular lens, that would be your problem.

                    1. Mr Kurtz – when I first moved to Arizona we had three types of weather: hot, damn hot, too damn hot. However, NOAA got involved and now instead of too damn hot we have EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING. Today was one of those days. NOAA artificially fixed the monsoon season and so far we have not had much of one and the artificial one will end before the real one does. 😉 Thank god for government intervention.

            2. Enigma does not know anything about inner city life, public black housing projects, life of blacks in said residential communities nor does he knock on their doors, mentor black kids, lead groups of black men into public housing projects to teach help unwed black parents, give hope to the young fatherless and otherwise engage in black community assistance. Enigma is all about attention seeking behavior, using the plight of blacks (a group victimized by black opportunist “actvists”) and tell blacks like me who call him out to kiss his ash, reprobate that he is

    2. Despite the makeup, he was ID’d by people who know him from surveillance videos played on TV. Got that? Its just foundation, and despite it people who know the guy are obviously able to recognize him.
      “no evidence for that in the story”
      But this only demonstrates there’s no evidence of brain in your skull – obviously this is a detail of the case and your ignorance of it is not an excuse.

  4. Contrary to Professor Turley’s position and those of many others here, the photo array or lineup procedures followed in this case appear to be consistent with the DOJ’s recommended practices.

    As Professor Turley notes in his article, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney insisted that there was nothing wrong with the changes because “the whole idea was to make [the suspect] Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out . . . These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’ According to “Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement,” U.S. Department of Justice, October 1999, the photo array or lineup should “[c]reate a consistent appearance between the suspect and fillers [nonsuspects] with respect to any unique or unusual feature (e.g., scars, tattoos) used to describe the perpetrator by ARTIFICIALLY ADDING OR CONCEALING THAT FEATURE.” [Emphasis added.] See pages 29, 31.

  5. Removing the tattoos was utterly and completely wrong.

    While it is possible that the tellers would not notice facial tattoos due to the baseball cap being pulled low, and sunglasses, still, the police removed prominent identifying features.

    Identifying someone after a crime, such as robbery, is surprisingly difficult for eye witnesses. While I was in college, I participated in a psychology study where we were shown a video of a “crime”, and then we later had to identify the perpetrator from a lineup, where he had grown out his facial hair and cut his hair. It was more difficult than I thought to identify someone we’d only seen for a couple of minutes. It would be easier if the person was right outside, and had just left your field of view, rather than having to wait days later and look at two dimensional photos. One imagines that the problem would be exacerbated in criminal cases where years go by before there is an identification.

    1. Karen, you cannot seriously be this clueless. You’re a woman. This is not rocket science. He used makeup. Please, by all means, just google “robbery suspect uses makeup” or something similar – this is NOT new! Criminals do this ALL THE TIME to hide identifying tattoos.
      Clearly you know ZERO facts from the case: he was identified anonymously from surveillance video played on TV – BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW HIM. That’s WITH the makeup on. People who know you can identify you even if you put base/foundation all over your face.
      They caught him with clothes worn in 2 of the robberies.
      If you need more than that to overturn your belief that its a conspiracy by racist cops and FBI, I give up, people are utterly psychotic. Its like you refuse to use your brain.

      1. Itry2brational – I did not see in the article where the suspect was described as wearing makeup during the robbery. What was referenced was photoshopping him in a lineup. Perhaps that was noted in another article, which you can share with us without shouting.

        Please point to where you claim that I called the cops racist, or that it was a conspiracy. I said nothing of the sort.

        Why are you acting demented?

        1. Karen,
          Just after the surveillance picture in the article is this line:

          “Allen could have used makeup to cover up his tattoos, Hawkinson said.”

          It doesn’t say he did, only that it was possible.

            1. You expect us to believe its difficult for an intelligent young woman to figure out the use of….makeup? Clearly you are smart so the only excuse for this willful ignorance, this disregard for the other evidence proving guilt, must be some sort of ideological blindness.
              Karen, doesn’t it bother you when you know someone is very smart but they don’t behave that way? That’s how people like you make me feel. Your incuriousness is shameful, you have no excuse for not searching for more info on the case and/or at least attempting to debunk the things I’ve said about it. I’ve done my homework, you can do yours and accept that plenty of crooks use makeup to cover their identifying tattoos and that doesn’t fool people who know you. mmmk?

              1. itry2brational:

                “You expect us to believe its difficult for an intelligent young woman to figure out the use of….makeup?” The article did not say he used makeup, only that they removed his facial tattoos to make him blend in better in a lineup. My concern is that if this is a guilty person, then they could have just thrown their case away. In addition, it seemed unfair to remove identifying characteristics, at least to a layperson like myself. It would be a shame if either a guilty person went free if his conviction was overturned, or if an innocent person was misidentified. He was identified by multiple people, so the latter seems unlikely.

                You remarked that this guy used makeup. Perhaps you saw an additional article that I have not. I have only read the supposition that he might have. I suspect that his facial tattoos were not obvious to the tellers because he was wearing a ball cap and sunglasses.

                Perhaps you should get to know me better before casting aspersions or guessing my opinions. I’ve been called a lot of things on the blog, but incurious and not looking up references are new ones.

                1. “The article did not say he used makeup…”
                  The BIASED article left out many relevant details, on purpose, to arrive at predetermined conclusion – racism. Your dependence on one article is a demonstration of your incuriousness.
                  You have access to the exact same info as I do. The only difference: I looked. I am not depending on one misleading story for details. In fact, I’ve read the entire criminal complaint.
                  I’m not sure how many times it must be repeated but: more than one person who knows him identified him perfectly and unmistakably despite makeup covering his tattoos and glasses and hoodie and cap from surveillance video/pics.
                  If you had zero face tattoos, you smeared foundation/base all over your face, you put on glasses and ball cap – people who know you would still be able to identify you instantly. That’s what happened, that’s how he was ID’d.
                  Also, the FBI agent on the case met him and reported he had no doubt they are the same person. You think Mr. Turley here and WaPo and all the others spinning this story into racism know better than people who know Tyrone Allen? Better than people who’ve met him?

                  1. itry2brational – I never made any accusations of racism in the police department, nor did Professor Turley.

                    What would be better is if you simply posted links to your information to add more facts to the conversation. Word Press will allow you no more than 2 links per post. If you have more to share, you have to break them up.

  6. Eyewitness testimony is infamously unreliable. Why impair it further by Photoshopping the suspect’s face?

      1. Portland needs at least one level of government responsive to the law and to justice.
        Who, then will enforce the law in Portland? The city of Portland and the state of Oregon choose not to protect their citizens from lawlessness, and now a Federal prosecutor there shows witnesses altered photographs of criminal suspects for identification

        Something in the water of Portland?

    1. @mespo727272:

      For someone who often argues in favor of (supposed) logic and reasoning, you sure are prone to confirmation bias. Except that your apparent pre-existing biases regarding 1) Portland and 2) Portland police aren’t even true.

      The actual situation:

      1) Portland is no “People’s Republic”. Just because a locale has a few bike paths, some land-use planning, and a few other public amenities doesn’t mean it is under any sort of control by workers. Portland is fundamentally capitalist, with all that implies — control by business, wealthy individuals, and other money interests, and particularly whatever/whoever can use money most effectively to influence so-called elections and elected officials. And as it now becomes increasingly gentrified and expensive, the city moves even further from your imagined “People’s Republic” label.

      2) the Portland police are not any sort of enforcers for workers, justice, civil liberties, or anything else that might have leftist connotations. Like police everywhere, they defend the status quo, which as I have already noted is overwhelmingly capitalist in Portland, just as in the rest of this country. In addition, by the very nature of their role, they tend towards authoritarianism.

      And further, there have been multiple instances of Portland law enforcement sympathizing with, being aligned with, or even actively collaborating with right-wingers and/or white supremacists. (Google “Portland police white supremacists”).

      By almost any measure, the dangerously-faulty law enforcement actions in the particular case cited by Turley are far more likely to be related to Portland police right-wing or racist biases than to any “People’s Republic” influences.

      1. “For someone who often argues in favor of (supposed) logic and reasoning, you sure are prone to confirmation bias. Except that your apparent pre-existing biases regarding 1) Portland and 2) Portland police aren’t even true.”
        **********************
        I love scientists – faux or otherwise. Notions of wit and sarcasm are abandoned somewhere in that linear track Univac they call a synapse. It’s why they stare all blank and bewildered when asked at trial: “So the fact you’re testified seven times for Lawyer Jones and are getting paid three times your normal rate to testify here today has no effect on your conclusions?” Snapping out of the trance you get “Nope, not a one” or “you’re paid to be here, too, aren’t you,” as the inevitable reply — the sparkling repartee impressive to everyone in the courtroom but the jury, of course.

        1. Mespo, et al:

          As many of us have known for some time NY & NYC have been & continue ever deeper into being post USC 3rd world shi*thole.

          It seems now one can be convicted of an assault like crime “& found Guilt” with no Victims or wittiness.

          I’ll have to read more on this case, it’s just looks like NY mafia justice.

          The ole moral of this story remains, don’t do business or go into Commie/Fascist ran sh*itholes.

          ………….

          Anonymous says:
          August 19, 2019 at 5:48 PM

          Today:

          “Far-right Proud Boys found guilty of attempted gang assault in fight with Antifa members”

          https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-proud-boys-verdict-guilty-20190819-flkgwutnrzavxo33erafe725jy-story.html

          https://jonathanturley.org/2019/08/18/california-woman-convicted-for-assault-on-trump-supporters/comment-page-2/#comment-1874616

      2. Or he’s guilty and he just used some makeup. Gee, its either a massive conspiracy of right-wing cops AND FBI with not a single conscience among them or a criminal used makeup on his face. I mean, its not like people who know him identified him instantly from the surveillance video – despite his makeup job. Oh wait….oops. And its not like the found some of the clothes from 2 of the robberies on the guy….oops again.
        Wow, all that crap you just wrote and it could just be that he’s the bad guy that used makeup.
        Societal racism and a massive conspiracy or a bad guy used makeup to hide his tattoos. hmmmmmmmmmm

        1. Itry2brational – I thought it likely that the tellers did not notice his facial tattoos because he had the cap pulled down low, and wore sunglasses. It is possible, however, that he used makeup during the robbery. You mentioned that those who knew him identified him from surveillance video “despite his makeup job.” Do you mean that it was confirmed he wore makeup during the robbery, or they identified him even with his baseball cap and sunglasses?

          Surveillance videos in general tend to be poor quality, but perhaps they got a good shot of him.

          1. Karen,
            “Surveillance videos in general tend to be poor quality”

            With all the advances in technology, this issue perplexes me.

            1. Prairie Rose – I’ve often wondered why whenever they show a clip of a surveillance video on the news, it is still not very clear. Perhaps it uses less data to record in less detail.

    2. CA is right there with them in dystopia. Have you seen the YouTube video addressed to Gov Newsom by a hair salon owner who had to move because she was tired of having to clean up human feces and dirty needles when opening her store? She asked him who he’s trying to make happy, because it certainly is not those who follow the law, don’t do drugs, and pay taxes.

  7. He may have been wearing a cap and makeup, which covered the tattoos. I would be surprised if he wasn’t. Nonetheless, they shouldn’t have altered the photos in any way, as it guarantees an appeal. The altered photo also has darker hair and lighter skin. And of course prosecutors care about their win/ loss ratio. Many are ambitious and want to go to private firms or into politics. Notice how many media commentators on even liberal shows like CNN and MSNBC are billed as “former federal prosecutors.” When was the last time they had a “former Public Defender” on there discussing legal issues? I can’t think of a single instance. Americans – whether liberal or conservative – love successful prosecutors because we loath and fear criminals.

  8. If the witnesses never mentioned facial tattoos then the real thief probably didn’t have any. Or have I misread this?

    1. One reason eyewitness testimony isn’t always reliable is because human memory – especially when the witnesses are in fear and anger – is malleable. Memory at these times can fail a witness, the witness focus on a subject’s eyes or his cap or other features and not tattoos.

      Identikits can also, unless the technician is careful not to lead the witness, encourage false testimony.- as the brain marshals recollections into testimony and chooses the plausible over the truth. But that is rarely done on purpose. Photoshopping is a deliberate act.

      Hopefully, it this suspect is guilty, he left transfer evidence at the scene. Otherwise it’s a weak case.

  9. No it shouldn’t lead to dismissal or discipline.

    It’s a passable wager he covered the tats with makeup, which is why they wouldn’t see them. The identification of the supposed perp given the photoshopping is ambiguous but not useless. So long as the image adjustment is disclosed to any trier of fact, it should pass.

    1. Fire them now. If you don’t think this could become a constitutional problem you are living in the wrong country.

      1. It would not be a constitutional problem if we did not have fools for appellate judges. I’m living in the right country. You’re a waste of space.

        1. The problem is not specifically judges – the problem with judges is the same one as with prosecutors, police and government employees generally – they have no meaningful oversight.

          It is damn near impossible to fire them – because most of them do not have bosses with the power to fire them.

    2. Absolutely it should lead to dismissal.
      AND Discipline.

      This is a form of LYING.

      This is not about betting.
      And frankly it is a horrible bet that he covered the Tats with makeup.
      Our police are not brain surgeons. In fact many police forces reject candidates with IQ’s over 100 – that is AVERAGE.
      The good news for law enforcement is criminals are even stupider.

      The bottom line is the eyewitness ID’s based on the photo lineup are worthless, and absent a case that does not rely on those the conviction is equally worthless.

      The remedy is NOT for courts to guess whether the case would have gone differently but for these bogus identifications.
      It is to retry the case.

      And in the mean time discipline those involved.

      Further with law enforcement we need bright lines.

      We should not expect courts to play subjective games to decide if some alteration of evidence – and that is what this is, is significant or not. The rules should be black and white – no photo shopping of pictures.

      The objective of law enforcement is not to convict people.
      It is to convict the guilty.

    3. Two words: “Confirmation bias”. Which are the two words I’d use if I were representing that suspect. There’s no plausible reason to Photoshop the photo of a suspect, then present it to a witness to identify a suspect in a robbery.

      The ONLY reasons for that would be (a) firm evidence, such as residue of makeup on the suspect’s face during the robbery, or evidence of the tattoos having been applied AFTER a robbery he was accused of, but BEFORE his arrest. Unlikely, but I can’t think of other reasons.

      The explanation given by the AUSA on this case, that this was a “prudent” measure, completely fails to be even plausibe.

  10. Apparently I do not understand the grand benefits that accrue to prosecutors for winning cases? Is their compensation tied to their personal win/loss ratio? Why do prosecutors knowingly risk their licenses, future incomes, professional reputations by cheating, compromising their cases with all manner of bad practices, whether immoral or illegal, or both? While the public rarely peeks under justice’s curtain, many of those behind it must be aware of the ever creeping corruption that characterizes the modern US Judiciary, from the highest to lowest courts, including local jurisdictions (for example, less than 20% adjudicated can afford an attorney). How pitiable to be any of those people.

    1. You ever tangled online with Patrick Frey (“Patterico”)? Here’s a hypothesis: it’s a subfraction of the bar that attracts and retains a great many a**holes. They can neither admit error, recognize their own ignorance, or lose gracefully.

    2. Because there is ZERO risk.

      There is no threat to their licenses,
      There is no threat to their future incomes,
      There is no threat to their reputations.

      It should not surprise anyone that when judges, prosecutors, police, bureaucrats – government generally has little of no oversight, no responsibility and no consequences, that corruption in one form or another is rampant, that efficiency is non-existant, that rights are abused.

      An easy example.
      Just about every public business has parking.
      The GOOD parking spaces are reserved for CUSTOMERS.
      The spaces far away or in the back are assigned to employees.

      While at government offices – the employees have the spaces close to the offices, have the reserved parking in the garages,
      and the CUSTOMERS have to pay for spaces that are inconvenient.

      Government does not answer to its “customers”, public businesses do.
      The differences is incentives.

      There is crap for oversite of governmemnt, and those in govenrment not merely know about it,
      but they are so used to it that they are not even conscious of the fact that they could not get away with what they do if they had real customers to please.

    3. Their prospects for advancement are.

      Further both police and prosecutors and judges (like all humans) are inherently lazy – this is a good thing outside of government – it drives us to find easier ways to do things that deliver the same value.
      But always our efforts to make things eaiser are judged by our customers based on value delivered – so good creative laziness is rewarded.

      In government the same effort to do the job more simply exists – but there is nothing that requires it to also be done well.

      Actually doing the hard work of investigating and catching the real criminal is difficult and time consuming.
      It is much easier to just pick a bad guy that you can make a minimal case – or manufacturer one.

      The good news is that most of the time – the “pick a bad guy” strategy even when it does not get the right person, does get someone who deserves to be jailed.

      The bad news is SOMETIMES it does not.

    4. Kathleen, Being a prosecutor is a classic first step in political careers. I worked w/ a woman who went on to become a longtime US Senator.

      1. And that’s too bad. Ideally, prosecutors would be legal professionals who might wish to be judges but would otherwise be no more likely than a random professional man to want to hold an elected office outside the court system. I’ve been acquainted with a career prosecutor who wanted the top job in her county and ran for it, but wasn’t altogether at home with electoral politics, though she had good people skills. (She lost, and had to migrate to another subfraction of the legal profession).

  11. Why do prosecutors keep doing these stupid things?

    They are not there to have the best win/loss record; they are there to ensure that justice is served.

    Cynical/ambitious prosecutors have done much to undermine our respect for the law.

  12. “the whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out . . .
    .
    If that was the goal then, like making everyone wear the same color shirt or same style hat, adding tattoos to the faces of the others in the line up would have achieved the same thing without removing identifying features that they knew witnesses would be looking for.

    1. You are getting confused by the act that is so wrong.
      When you start changing evidence everyone loses. Use your detective skills to figure how this guy is beating you OR find the other guy.

    2. Police ARE supposed to put together photo line ups where truly alterable characteristics – like shirts and caps are all the same.

      But Tattoos are near immutable. To the extent they are changeable most everything about a persons apearance is changeable.

      Absolutely he could have used makeup to cover the tattoos, he also could have used prosthetics to alter his nose, chin, or wiggs.

      Those occur rarely and prosecutors and police do not get to assume any of those are likely.

  13. When I worked for the prosecutors office we tried to discourage photo lineups. But, they were better than the police bringing a suspect back to the crime scene and asking victim/witness, “Is this the guy.” They LOVED doing that and it was poison for the prosecution of a case.

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