When you here police officers say things like, “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers…” and “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace,” you shudder to think about the people who have been illegally locked up. Everyone who works in the criminal system hears allegations of cops lying on an everyday basis. Time and time again I have to tell clients it doesn’t matter what the truth is, because this is what the cop is going to say in court – and the judge will almost always take the word of the officer over that of the accused. It’s a rare, and exciting victory, when we can actually catch a cop in a lie. Definitely check out the full article in the NY Times. The article is correct, as a defense attorney, you frequently do have to be crazy to accuse the cops of lying, or other misconduct.
My friend Mary Beth and I were just talking about the problem of Federal grants funding agencies. The example she gave was of cops finding a junkie, and having him take them to a drug dealer and purchasing the drugs for the undercover, and then charging the junkie with drug dealing. It was far easier to charge the junkie than the actual dealer, and it looked the same in the numbers – so junkie went to prison. And those cops didn’t have to lie to do it.
Another area that is ripe for cops to stretch the truth are DUI arrests. Suspects are subjected to tests, and their performances are subjectively judged by the police officers. Sadly, only a small percentage of squad cars have cameras, and most DUI arrests are not on video, so it comes down to the word of the officer. The recent lawsuit against the Utah trooper who was fired for faking DUI charges is likely the tip of the iceberg. Officers get special recognition based on the numbers of arrests they make (and not on the quality of the arrests). It is my personal belief that the law enforcement agencies don’t want cameras in some cars because they will help people win at trial. The cops want to prevent evidence from going in front of a jury. We need to demand more of our law enforcement officers.