Despite an increasingly obvious track record of lying on reports, framing innocent people and many other forms of misconduct and abuse, juries tend to automatically believe police officers when they testify in court. Defense attorney Rick Horowitz explains why this is a bad idea, in response to another person pointing out that not all cops are bad:
The problem, of course, is that these days you just can’t tell, by looking at a particular law enforcement officer, whether a particular law enforcement officer is one of those who is being honest, or whether he is one who will lie (especially in court), or plant evidence, or ignore rights, or follow the law.
Therein lies the problem.
I know I say some nasty stuff about police officers. It may surprise you to know that I didn’t always talk like this, or think the way I do. Over the years since I became an attorney, however, I’ve come to know that every one of the things I talked about above happens on a regular basis.
Prosecutors won’t charge cops, even for the same things for which they’d charge you, since they’re all “on the same team.” Our courts — supposedly the last guardians we have against the abuse of the executive branch of government to which prosecutors and the police belong — are often complicit. Despite the large number of proven cases of police officers who essentially make a mockery of our laws, other parts of the government which should be policing the police refuse to do so.
And make no mistake, these are not “one-off” incidents we’re talking about here. I tried to highlight that fact by the numerous links above. And it did not take me long to find those links. But these links only scratch the surface.
I don’t doubt for a moment that here are lots of good cops out there. I know some of them personally. I suspect most of them try to do their job fairly and professionally. But that doesn’t mean we should treat the word of a police officer as automatically true or inherently more credible than the word of a suspect or defendant. We have more than enough cases now of police officers caught lying and abusing people — cases we would never have known about if not for video footage from a cell phone or surveillance camera — to justify treating their testimony as no more credible than that of a person accused of doing something wrong. If the officer’s claims are all the evidence you have, that’s a pretty weak case.
This is why every single police officer in the country should have a video and audio recorder on their uniform. Every single interaction they have with the public should be part of the evidence in a case. And this is something that every good cop should be in favor of. If they’re doing the right things, it can only serve to protect them from false accusations and provide more evidence against the bad guys. And if they’re not, that’s exactly why they need to be on video at all times.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: