Believing that law enforcement officers are good guys is one of the linchpins of our society; probably of all societies, even where they don’t officially call them “law enforcement” officers.  But to believe in law enforcement officers, we must be able to believe law enforcement officers.

So far that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the majority of submitizens, even though newspapers as small as the Fresno Bee contain at least one — and usually more than one — story almost every day about the illegal activities of police officers.

But there’s one type of malfeasance in which police officers engage even more routinely that usually goes unreported.  Until now.

The Wall Street Journal reports that,

According to a 1992 survey, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges in Chicago said they thought that, on average, perjury by police occurs 20% of the time in which defendants claim evidence was illegally seized. (Amir Efrati, “Legal System Struggles With How to React When Police Officers Lie” (January 29, 2009) Wall Street Journal.)

And, trust me (I’m not a police officer), Chicago is not unique.

Patrick, over at PopeHat, reports in “A Rickety, Wooden Story” about two police officers who wanted in to a man’s house because they believed another man they wished to arrest was there.  They had no legal right to enter the house and the man refused them entry.  Thereupon, they beat him, tasered him and arrested him for assaulting police officers.  Fortunately, these cops were stupid and both wrote reports and repeatedly testified about the “rickety, wooden porch” which required one cop to stick his foot inside the door to stabilize himself, supposedly provoking the man’s attack.  Unfortunately (for the cops), the porch was made of concrete.  The only thing rickety was their fabricated story.

Not all police officers lies are as blatant as this, of course.  In San Francisco, a woman spent 20 months in jail, awaiting trial on attempted murder.  Though there was no evidence that a crime had even been committed, a police officer revised an earlier story about hearing a shot and seeing a car; months after the fact, he identified an innocent woman as the shooter.  A jury acquitted the woman after police, who had safeguarded the bullet in an evidence locker for two years, “disposed” of it three days into the trial.  The Public Defender was glad that the jury had seen through the lies.  But did they see through the lies?  Or did they merely think the officer was mistaken?  That case had so many weaknesses it’s hard to tell.

And then, of course, there are the “testiliars” who get away with it.  Shockingly, this is not really a secret.

“It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers,” though it’s difficult to detect in specific cases, said Alex Kozinski, a federal appeals-court judge, in the 1990s. That’s because the exclusionary rule “sets up a great incentive for…police to lie.” (Amir Efrati, “Legal System Struggles With How to React When Police Officers Lie” (January 29, 2009) Wall Street Journal (emphasis added).)

I still remember when I first learned about this.  I was stunned.  Prior to becoming a criminal defense attorney, I thought that most police officers were good and figured, at most, ten percent were “bad cops.”  As a criminal defense attorney practicing in Fresno, Tulare, Madera and Kings Counties, I’ve come to learn that, at best, the percentages are reversed when it comes to testilying.  As the WSJ article points out, “there’s a tacit agreement among many officers that lying about how evidence is seized keeps criminals off the street.”  Police officers figure it’s okay to break the law in order to get a conviction against someone who they believe has broken the law.  After all, the someone being convicted isn’t them.

The problem is that sometimes police officers are wrong.

It leaves you to wonder: “How many innocent people are sitting in jails and prisons because of police testiliars?”

Special thanks to Kerry Prindiville of the Fresno County Law Library for bringing the Wall Street article to my attention.

51 comments

  1. I know of a case in Sutter County County CA were the D-DA Hopper and the Cop Weber sent an innocent man to prison for 12 yrs through their DA supported lies no the ends do not justify the means a Brady cop is a Brady cop -DISBAR THE DA Carl Adams is the chair of the CDAA

  2. I know of a case in Sutter County County CA were the D-DA Hopper and the Cop Weber sent an innocent man to prison for 12 yrs through their DA supported lies no the ends do not justify the means a Brady cop is a Brady cop -DISBAR THE DA Carl Adams is the chair of the CDAA

  3. Recently a lady was beaten up without charge because the police realized she had installed home surveillance. I personally would not mention any recorders running unless my life was in danger. Police (in theory) do an important job, and I would rather have an officer act in his default setting, which most of the time is professional.
    I would rather be arrested falsely with solid evidence on my side, with a chance of getting a bad cop debadged, than let him “Flee to easier pickings.”

  4. Recently a lady was beaten up without charge because the police realized she had installed home surveillance. I personally would not mention any recorders running unless my life was in danger. Police (in theory) do an important job, and I would rather have an officer act in his default setting, which most of the time is professional.
    I would rather be arrested falsely with solid evidence on my side, with a chance of getting a bad cop debadged, than let him “Flee to easier pickings.”

  5. I would be surprised if a police officer facing someone doing what you said would “go away.”

    It should be noted that the majority of officers encountering a law-abiding citizen are going to react to them as pretty much any other human being would. (Although you do all-too-frequently have to consider the races of the people involved. Darker-complected people are going to have more potential problems with the police; even those who are not racists.)

    While an ordinary citizen is within their rights not to talk to the police and usually should not talk any more than necessary, there’s nothing in that suggestion that requires being rude to officers. Treat them with the proper amount of respect (neither more nor less) and you should be fine with most officers during a routine traffic stop.

  6. I would be surprised if a police officer facing someone doing what you said would “go away.”

    It should be noted that the majority of officers encountering a law-abiding citizen are going to react to them as pretty much any other human being would. (Although you do all-too-frequently have to consider the races of the people involved. Darker-complected people are going to have more potential problems with the police; even those who are not racists.)

    While an ordinary citizen is within their rights not to talk to the police and usually should not talk any more than necessary, there’s nothing in that suggestion that requires being rude to officers. Treat them with the proper amount of respect (neither more nor less) and you should be fine with most officers during a routine traffic stop.

  7. I would be surprised if a police officer facing someone doing what you said would “go away.”

    It should be noted that the majority of officers encountering a law-abiding citizen are going to react to them as pretty much any other human being would. (Although you do all-too-frequently have to consider the races of the people involved. Darker-complected people are going to have more potential problems with the police; even those who are not racists.)

    While an ordinary citizen is within their rights not to talk to the police and usually should not talk any more than necessary, there’s nothing in that suggestion that requires being rude to officers. Treat them with the proper amount of respect (neither more nor less) and you should be fine with most officers during a routine traffic stop.

  8. the ONLY way to assure that the filthy cops will not perjure themselves without conscience is to VIDEO TAPE and audio record your car and home. Of corse this entails expense, but today a simple taping system can be had fairly cheaply…especially when considering the cost of defending yourself against a phony charge ( or even a legit one).

    My car is fully outfitted, and when you tell a cop that pulls you over that he is being recorded and the evdence is secure in another site, that cop will learn some manners fast. If a cop thinks that you are wanting him to screw up so you can embarrass and sue him, he will flee to easier pickings.

    Show NO fear, NO intimidaton, no hint that they are in charge..YOU are in charge of every encounter with the cops. Never answer ANY questions…simply ask if you are free to leave or if you are being detained…then note the time and begin writing down all details..the cops names, the time pulled…how long kept waiting, etc. Never respond to ANY questions: you have a right to remain silent and that is before anything happens. NO COP can demand legally that you speak to them or answer anything.

    Let them know that you are serious about your rights and willing to make them pay if they cross the line one iota. Silence is golden; if a cop sees he cannot question you, cannot get consent and cannot get a rise out of you, they will KNOW that you are more trouble than you are worth…then they go away.

  9. the ONLY way to assure that the filthy cops will not perjure themselves without conscience is to VIDEO TAPE and audio record your car and home. Of corse this entails expense, but today a simple taping system can be had fairly cheaply…especially when considering the cost of defending yourself against a phony charge ( or even a legit one).

    My car is fully outfitted, and when you tell a cop that pulls you over that he is being recorded and the evdence is secure in another site, that cop will learn some manners fast. If a cop thinks that you are wanting him to screw up so you can embarrass and sue him, he will flee to easier pickings.

    Show NO fear, NO intimidaton, no hint that they are in charge..YOU are in charge of every encounter with the cops. Never answer ANY questions…simply ask if you are free to leave or if you are being detained…then note the time and begin writing down all details..the cops names, the time pulled…how long kept waiting, etc. Never respond to ANY questions: you have a right to remain silent and that is before anything happens. NO COP can demand legally that you speak to them or answer anything.

    Let them know that you are serious about your rights and willing to make them pay if they cross the line one iota. Silence is golden; if a cop sees he cannot question you, cannot get consent and cannot get a rise out of you, they will KNOW that you are more trouble than you are worth…then they go away.

  10. When I was speaking some time ago I met with a criminal law professor in a 3l class where they were talking of the 4th 5th and 14th amend. and had 11 policew officers there from various agencies for rebuttal. All of them categorically stated that If you piss them off they will find a reason to search you and if you refuse they have hundreds of reasons to arrest you. quote” there are no innocent people” I was so beside myself I was near having a seizure. I was there with the young from “mock trial” and “we the people.”
    Just what these kids should not have learned.

    Mark

  11. When I was speaking some time ago I met with a criminal law professor in a 3l class where they were talking of the 4th 5th and 14th amend. and had 11 policew officers there from various agencies for rebuttal. All of them categorically stated that If you piss them off they will find a reason to search you and if you refuse they have hundreds of reasons to arrest you. quote” there are no innocent people” I was so beside myself I was near having a seizure. I was there with the young from “mock trial” and “we the people.”
    Just what these kids should not have learned.

    Mark

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