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Wrongful conviction course now required for all police recruits in Illinois

Written by on February 20, 2023

NORMAL, Ill. – Starting in 2023, all police recruits in the state of Illinois must take a Wrongful Conviction Awareness and Avoidance course as part of their training.

The course was initially developed in 2016 by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Police Training Institute Director Michael Schlosser with help from the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board was initially dubious about the need for a course on this subject, but this year the board embraced the concept and the course is now a mandated part of the training for all new police recruits in the state.

The course focuses on demonstrating the importance of carefully gathering and analyzing evidence and not jumping to conclusions about certain subjects and potential suspects to recruits.

Director Schlosser touched on some of the main aspects the course will focus on.

“We talk about tunnel vision, witness misidentification, official misconduct, forensic science problems, false accusations, and incentivized testimony,” Schlosser said.

One of the most impactful parts of the course is when an exoneree speaks to the recruits on the impact that the wrongful conviction had on their life.

“It’s very emotional,” Schlosser said. “When you can see a real human being who experienced something like this, that is the biggest impact on the recruit officers.”

This year’s speaker is Kristine Bunch, who was wrongfully convicted of setting a fire that killed her 3-year-old son. Bunch spent more than 17 years in prison before being exonerated. She will speak to the recruits this March about how her wrongful conviction affected her life.