The Force Identification (ID) Unit conducts identification procedures for the Constabulary. It primarily employs the VIPER (Video Identification Parades Electronic Recording) system to carry out identification procedures of persons suspected of committing an offence.
VIPER is a much speedier process than the old fashioned method of holding identification parades involving volunteers and results in more suspects being positively identified whilst freeing up police officers for operational duties.
The ID Unit has specialised facilities based throughout the force area to conduct the ID procedures.
These facilities are located at Trinity Road and Newfoundland Road Police Stations in Bristol and at Bath, Taunton, Weston-super-Mare, Staple Hill,
Yeovil and Bridgwater Police Stations.
Find the location and map of your local police station.
The Force Identification Officer runs the Unit and employs a number of 'Approved Persons' to conduct the ID procedures. The 'Approved Persons' prepare a video film of a suspect with other volunteers of similar age and appearance which is shown to witnesses.
The video film typically lasts about three minutes and witnesses are required to view the film at least twice.
See an example of a Video Identification Parade film.
Are you a Witness?
If you have been asked to assist police by attending an ID procedure you may find the following information useful.
When you arrive at the police station you will be met by a member of staff and shown to a waiting room.
There may be some refreshments available and if you need anything, please feel free to ask.
This is a relaxed procedure and you should not feel under any pressure.
The suspect in the case is never allowed to be present at the procedure.
Should you have any concerns, please bring them to the attention of the staff. You should not discuss any points of the case with any other witness or officer assisting with this procedure.
When it is your turn you will be escorted to the viewing room where you will be introduced to the Identification Officer. There may also be a legal representative present, whose role is to observe the procedure and the way it is conducted.
The Identification Officer will read out a very basic account of the incident that you witnessed, before reading out a further piece of text. This is an explanation of the procedure and you should listen carefully to it. The main points are:-
- The person you saw may or may not appear on the film.
- You must watch the entire film at least twice.
- You can see all or any part of the film again.
- If you cannot make an identification, you should say so.
You will be shown a film that lasts a few minutes. It shows a series of faces on a television screen.
When you have finished viewing the film, the Identification Officer will ask you a few questions to clarify whether or not the offender had been shown.
It may be necessary to ask you an additional question to clarify an individual's involvement in the incident you witnessed. Please keep your answer short and to the point.
When you have finished the viewing, you will be taken to a waiting room and asked to make a short statement with an officer.
Frequently Asked Questions
The document at the bottom of the page contains further information as well as some commonly asked questions. Please download this document to view.
The Identification Unit Commitment
- The Avon & Somerset Constabulary ID Unit is dedicated to providing a quality service to all customers.
- The ID Unit will always endeavour to provide ID support to investigations quickly and professionally.
- The ID Unit will endeavour to accommodate the wishes of witnesses in the service it provides.
- As a customer of the ID Unit you will be treated with dignity and respect.
If you would like to contact the ID Unit please visit the 'contact us' page.