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Portland Police digitally remove face tattoos from mugshot, to help their case

Portland Police digitally remove face tattoos from mugshot, to help their case

There’s no mistaking the elaborate tattoos that cover Tyrone Lamont Allen’s forehead and right cheek.

But when Portland police suspected Allen was involved in four bank and credit union heists, and none of the tellers reported seeing tattoos on the face of the man who robbed them, police digitally altered Allen’s mugshot.

They covered up every one of his tattoos using Photoshop.

“I basically painted over the tattoos,’’ police forensic criminalist Mark Weber testified. “Almost like applying electronic makeup.’’

Police then presented the altered image of Allen with photos of five similar-looking men to the tellers for identification. They didn’t tell anyone that they’d changed Allen’s photo.

Some of the tellers picked out Allen.

The practice came under fire this week in a federal courtroom in Portland as Allen’s attorney argued that the manipulation allowed police to “rig the outcome” of the photo lineup.

The standard law enforcement tool is under ongoing scrutiny. This example floored Jules Epstein, a law professor at Temple University and leading national authority on eyewitness testimony.

In his 40 years as a lawyer and law professor, Epstein said he’s never heard of something so blatantly suggestive.

“It’s unbelievable to me that police would ignore the fact that no teller has described a person with glaring tattoos and make this man into a possible suspect by covering them up,” he said. “They’re increasing the risk of mistaken identity.’’

Mistaken eyewitness identifications remain a consistent thorn in the criminal justice system’s side. They have contributed to about 71% of the more than 360 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.

Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Oregon Supreme Court have weighed in with rulings on police use of the photo arrays because of the consistent problem.

The U.S. Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies also have adopted standard protocols of how to handle the arrays to lower the chance of influencing a witness, even unintentionally.

The failure of Portland police to document the photo changes runs counter to the federal guidelines.

Defense attorney Mark Ahlemeyer urged a judge to throw out the positive witness identifications of Allen, saying police clearly wanted the photo without tattoos to more closely resemble the face of their suspect.

“This is a very, very slippery slope given the advent of technology,’’ Ahlemeyer said. “We don’t know where this may end.’’

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney defended police actions.

“The whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out,’’ he said. “These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’

Maloney said the altering of Allen’s photo was done to “look like the disguises that were on the robber,’’ who wore a baseball-style hat and glasses, with no tattoos visible.

How U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez rules in this case could set precedent on police practices for future cases in Oregon and beyond, though it may ultimately end up before an appellate court, said Steve Kanter, a retired law professor and dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School.

“The touchstone is trying to have the most reliable procedure so you reduce the likelihood or risk of error,’’ Kanter said.

Fabrication or ‘newly-evolving science’

Allen, 50, was charged in the four bank and credit union robberies, all occurring within a four-day period in early April 2017. The robber threatened he had a gun and demanded money in each, whispering to one teller, “I’ll blow your brains out,’’ a police affidavit says. If it’s the same man who hit each bank and credit union, he made off with just over $14,100 collectively, according to investigators.

It was Allen’s attorney who discovered that his client’s mugshot had been altered.

When federal prosecutors shared their evidence with Ahlemeyer, nothing in any police reports documented the changes made to the photo.

But Ahlemeyer quickly spotted the unusual photo of Allen in the police photo array and knew it looked starkly different from his client.

Tyrone Lamont Allen case

Court exhibit

The altered photo of Tyrone Lamont Allen, bottom left corner, and the photos of five other similar-looking men that police showed to the witness tellers to identify the robber. (Court exhibit)

None of the tellers had described seeing any facial tattoos on the man who had demanded money from their banks. Video surveillance images didn’t show any tattoos on the thief’s face either.

The defense attorney filed a motion to throw out the witness identifications.

Police explained in court what they did.

The order to remove the tattoos came from Detective Brett Hawkinson, a nearly 18-year Police Bureau veteran assigned to the FBI’s task force on bank robberies and the lead investigator on the case.

Police had previously released a surveillance image of the robber from one of the banks. It didn’t show any tattoos on the robber’s face. The robber wore a baseball cap and black-rimmed glasses.

After the image was on the news, Hawkinson said police received information from two sources who suggested that Allen fit the robber’s description and the image released. By then, Allen was in custody on unrelated warrants after a traffic stop.

Tyrone Lamont Allen case

Court exhibit

One of the bank surveillance images released to the public.

Allen could have used makeup to cover up his tattoos, Hawkinson said. One of his objectives, he said, was to rule Allen in or out as a suspect and determine whether the sources who contacted police were credible.

Another officer who didn’t know which picture was of the suspected robber presented the manipulated photo of Allen and photos of other men to the tellers in what’s called a double-blind photo lineup. The officer presented each photo one by one in a manila envelope to a teller in a sequence.

Both practices are considered among the best protocols to avoid undue “suggestibility’’ or influence by police in an eyewitness identification, Hawkinson testified.

Ahlemeyer, on cross-examination, asked if any of the protocols instruct police that they can alter someone’s photo.

Hawkinson said no, but quickly added nothing tells police that they can’t change an image either. He said he learned of the practice through “on the job training’’ and from police supervisors.

It’s “standard practice among investigators,’’ he said.

“There are times it has been appropriate to make those small subtle changes,’’ he added. “The main purpose is not to make the suspect stand out.’’

It was better to remove Allen’s tattoos from the lineup photo, he said, because they could be too distracting for witnesses. “The purpose of any alteration is not to change the physical attributes but to mask things that would stand out,” he said.

“You don’t consider tattoos to be physical attributes?’’ the defense lawyer asked.

Hawkinson replied that tattoos could be added or removed.

The detective also said removing Allen’s tattoos actually could work in Allen’s favor, without providing any explanation.

Ahlemeyer seemed perplexed, “Do you think it was in defendant’s favor?’’

“It is hard to fathom any photo array conduct that is more ‘suggestive’ than altering a source photograph for the sole purpose of making the investigation target look more like the perpetrator,’’ Ahlmeyer told the court.

The detective called the digital manipulations part of “newly evolving science’’ in 2017. He said the presence of the altered photo in the evidence file in the case served as documentation.

“I’ve very concerned about the detective’s view about this so-called cutting edge 2017 technology, when there’s no protocol to support it,’’ Ahlemeyer said.

Tattoos gone, skin tone changed

Weber, the forensic criminalist who did the photo modification, said he used a Photoshop sampling color tool to match the skin tone next to Allen’s tattoos and went back over the parts of his face tattooed with a light brush.

The doctored photo appears to make Allen’s skin tone on the top of his head darker than his original photo, while his cheeks appear lighter, his lawyer noted.

But the court may never know what exact changes were made to the photo because nothing was documented, Ahlemeyer said.

Weber testified that he didn’t write a report because it wasn’t part of the Police Bureau’s standard operating procedures. He also acknowledged that he had changed suspect photos for other lineups before but wasn’t aware of any bureau protocol that expressly allowed that.

Acting Lt. Brad Yakots, a police spokesman, said the bureau “does not create suggestive lineups” and the decision to cover up Allen’s tattoos was done in this case to “prevent misidentifying the suspect.” He confirmed the bureau has no directive requiring an officer or forensic criminalist to write a report about photo alterations.

The nation’s high court has instructed judges to examine whether police identification procedures are unnecessarily suggestive and assess if an identification is reliable based on several factors, such as the extent of a witness’s opportunity to view the offender.

In a landmark ruling in 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously set a stricter standard for eyewitness identification evidence and shifted the burden to prosecutors to establish that the evidence is reliable and admissible in court. The court also noted that judges should independently assess the reliability of eyewitnesses.

In January 2017, months before Allen’s arrest, the U.S. Justice Department adopted new rules for agents with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies on handling eyewitness identification and photo throw-downs.

When a suspect has a unique feature such as a scar or tattoo, agents should find so-called “filler” photos of people with a similar feature. If they can’t duplicate a suspect’s unique feature, then they can black it out and place a similar black mark on the other “filler” photos.

In any case, the guidelines say, any alterations to photos should be documented, as well as the reasons for doing so.

Judge Hernandez heard the arguments and said he plans to issue a written ruling soon.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email at mbernstein@oregonian.com

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian

Visit subscription.oregonlive.com/newsletters to get Oregonian/OregonLive journalism delivered to your email inbox.

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Mass Shootings and “Conventional Wisdom”

In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, the airwaves and newspapers are filled with speculation about causes of the violence. Among a seemingly unending list are far-left political beliefs, far-right political beliefs, manifestos, racism, insufficient national security priorities, a lethal collection of ideologies, the president’s alleged promotion of intolerance, the tangled pipelines of the web, inadequate gun control, violent video games, insufficient screening for purchasers of firearms, a lack of mental health services. All of the above have been cited in the media within 48 hours of the horrific weekend.

The search for causes of crime goes on and on. The past half-century of searching has given rise to an unending list of so-called “root causes.” Practically everything but the federal deficit has been cited as a cause of criminal behavior. Among them are the traditional culprits of poverty and inequality, bad parenting, school policies that become a “pipeline to prison,” racial discrimination, peer pressure, bad role models, and brain pathology. Then there are the more esoteric alleged causes that include inadequate diet, exposure to lead, having certain physical characteristics, even cycles of the moon.

The search for causes continues to lead to dead ends when it comes to finding solutions. The crucial element missing is a focus on the mental makeup of the perpetrator. An otherwise responsible person does not suddenly decide to kill a bunch of people. There is a personality that has formed, a mentality behind the pulling of the trigger. 

Within 48 hours, investigators discovered that the Dayton gunman had “dark thoughts.” According to The Washington Post, as a kid dressed in dark clothing, the suspect had “a reputation” among the “emo kids, the outcast kids.” He was known to have “pushed one ex-girlfriend into a roaring river.” He had “screamed at another while pinning her against a wall.” He “was interested in guns and frequently harassed female students.” He had “instructed users of the social media to buy a gun and learn to use it responsibly” so they could protect themselves. What should have been an alarm bell to those who knew about it was this teenager’s “hit list with names of people he wanted to kill.”

Banning the use of automatic rifles could make it more difficult for would-be shooters to enact their schemes and, therefore, could save lives. But such a ban does little to change the mentality and intentions of mass killers. Other alleged causes are almost impossible to address perhaps because they are not really “causes.” Many people are adherents to extreme ideologies, but most do not kill people whom they consider their adversaries. And, of course, millions of kids play video games saturated with violent themes but to them, it is just entertainment. They would not think of translating those games into real-life events.

Warning signs must be recognized and attended to. Some killers are clever and do not broadcast their intentions. They are often the ones described as quiet loners who are withdrawn, not part of the mainstream. However, law enforcement and mental health professionals who delve into the psychology of mass shooters have been discovering that most send up “red flags.” These signals must be recognized and addressed by mental health professionals, educators, and law enforcement. Casting about for alleged “causes” external to the individual will not solve what appears to be an intractable problem.

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10 ways working out can help — and hurt — your skin

10 ways working out can help — and hurt — your skin

  • Working out can impact your skin in some positive and negative ways.
  • Exercise can give your skin a slight glow and help your skin look a little bit healthier because of the increased blood flow that occurs when you work out.
  • In some cases, working out can cause chafing and rashes and you might clog your pores if you wear makeup during a workout or don’t shower after you hit the gym.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Breaking a sweat can positively impact your overall health and well-being in many ways, so it’s not too surprising that exercise can also influence your skin. After all, your skin is your body’s largest organ and it’s affected by so many of your lifestyle habits and choices, including your workouts.

INSIDER spoke with two doctors to learn about the many positive and negative ways working out can potentially impact one’s skin.

Exercise may actually help keep your skin feeling and looking healthier

Keeping up a regular fitness routine can improve your skin’s overall appearance, as Dr. Marisa Garshick, board-certified dermatologist, told INSIDER.

“Exercise, by getting the heart rate up and improving blood circulation, can help to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin which keeps the skin healthy, promotes collagen production, and promotes new skin cells which keeps the skin looking glowing and is also helpful for anti-aging,” she said.

She also said that sweating while you exercise can help clear out your pores “as long as you make sure to clean [your] skin prior to exercise removing anything that can potentially clog the pores, [like] makeup or other skin-care products.”

Increased blood flow during exercise could lead to a ‘post-workout glow’

If you’ve ever noticed that your skin has a certain glow after a jog or yoga class, you’re not imagining things — the “post-gym glow” is real and it can last for several hours after your workout, according to our experts.

“The post-gym ‘glow’ that people describe is likely a combination of the increased blood flow [which can promote circulation in the skin], dewy appearance from sweat, and the endorphins released during exercise,” said Dr. Kathleen Cook Suozzi, assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine.

Outdoor workouts can up your risk for sun damage if you’re not careful

Always apply sunscreen if you plan on exercising outside.
iStock

If you decide to head outdoors for your workout, you’ll want to liberally apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin before you get outside, no matter the time of day or projected weather forecast.

Garshick said you’ll want to use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply at least every two hours. And, if you sweat, you may want to take note of your sunscreen’s water-resistant properties and apply more frequently than usual.

For your face, she said you’ll want to use sunscreens labeled “oil-free and water-resistant to prevent the sunscreen from clogging the pores or dripping off with sweat.”

Exercise can sometimes cause chafing and rashes on different areas of your body

Garshick said chafing and rashes can result from friction and moisture build-up in certain folds or areas of your skin.

When this happens, you might want to try using a strong over-the-counter antiperspirant to help prevent the excess sweating that causes chafing or slathering a thick layer of a moisturizing ointment in the area where you experience chafing.

And if you want to avoid getting certain rashes, Suozzi said it’s very important to dry off folds of your skin, including your inner thighs, buttocks, and under your breasts. “If these areas stay moist for prolonged periods, you can develop a condition called intertrigo, which are red itchy patches, often associated with yeast overgrowth on the skin,” she explained.

Working out might exacerbate rosacea

For some, working out may trigger rosacea flare-ups.
iStock

“Exercise can be a trigger for some patients with rosacea, which tends to worsen with increased blood flow to the skin, leading to redness,” said Garshick.

She said there are a variety of long-term treatments for rosacea including oral medications, topical creams, and lasers. But in terms of a short-term remedy for post-workout flare-ups, she said you may want to look for calming serums designed to help reduce the appearance of your skin’s redness.

Read More: 10 skin-care trends you’re probably following but shouldn’t

If you wear makeup during a workout, you may clog your pores

“If you work out with makeup on, the makeup can clog your pores, preventing the release of sweat leading to breakouts and blemishes,” said Garshick.

She said you should remove your makeup and thoroughly cleanse your skin before exercising to help prevent post-workout breakouts. And she suggests using a gentle cleanser, makeup wipe, or micellar water to do so.

Read More: 10 myths about pores you need to stop believing

Skipping that post-gym shower can cause or exacerbate acne

You’ll probably want to shower after a workout.
iStock

Even if you remove all your makeup or aren’t covered in sweat after a low-impact workout, you’ll still want to change out of your gym clothes and hit the shower as quickly as possible, said Garshick.

“We know that when sweat sits on the body for too long, it can attract bacteria and clog pores so if not properly rinsed off, can make someone more prone to breakouts and acne,” she told INSIDER.

Exercise might also cause scalp issues for some

“Increased exercise can increase sweating on the scalp which, for some people, can lead to scalp irritation or itchiness,” said Garshick.

She said the more oily one’s scalp is, the more likely it is for yeast to grow there, which could lead to seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that can cause dandruff, scaly patches, or redness on many parts of the body, but especially the scalp.

Garshick said anti-dandruff shampoo can oftentimes help with this. And, fortunately, this condition can oftentimes go away without treatment, per the Mayo Clinic.

Working out in shared spaces may expose you to certain skin infections if you’re not careful

You’ll want to clean equipment before using it.
iStock

Suozzi told us that certain fairly common skin infections such as ringworm, the strain of HPV that can cause plantar warts, and impetigo, which is caused by bacteria entering a cut or abrasion and oftentimes results in skin sores, can be acquired at shared centers.

Fortunately, many of these infections can be easy to treat with over-the-counter products or a visit to a medical professional. And the possibility of exposing yourself to certain gym germs is definitely not a good reason to skip working out, said Garshick.

Garshick said it’s just important to be mindful of cleaning off equipment you’re using and avoiding sharing towels with others. Suozzi also said that gym goers should wipe down yoga mats before using them, frequently use hand sanitizer while at the gym, and wear shoes while in shared showers.

The stress-relieving properties of working out can also benefit your skin

Regular exercise is known to be stress-reducing and working out is known for positively affecting one’s mental health. It might not seem like this link would extend to your skin, but a fitness routine that you enjoy can help your skin look its best.

“Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress and we know stress can affect the appearance of the skin, leading to breakouts and [irritation],” said Garshick. Stress can also cause eczema and rosacea flare-ups, and even hives.

And so, Garshick said, when you reduce stress by exercising you can improve your overall skin clarity.

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