Police Lying under Oath Not Uncommon

The difference between truth and reality sometimes offers a harsh look behind the veil of public perception.  This is seen in all aspects of life, from wanting to believe Lance Armstrong never took performance enhancing drugs to believing your child when they say they didn’t take the last cookie.

Public perception plays a critical role in how much we believe a person when they say something is or isn’t true.  We’d like to think everyone is power is always telling the truth, but that is not always the case.

People lie for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they lie for no reason at all.  One of the biggest problems in society is when a lie is protected or “corroborated” by a group of individuals who have a vested interest in the particular matter at hand.  Whether it’s a financial or moral obligation, groups of individuals sometimes perpetuate lies for the greater good of their cause.  As we’ve seen in recent years, police officers are one of the groups that sometimes use their position to pass false statements to get a result they want.

Peter Keane, former San Francisco Police commissioner, said lying in the courtroom is becoming commonplace among police officers.

“Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law,” said Keane.  “Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

Why they lie

Police officers lie for a variety of reasons, but the main reason may be because they know they can get away with it.  According to Keane, law enforcement officials “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.”

Keane also said a majority of the alleged criminals are on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, meaning that they are oftentimes poor and uneducated.

“Police know that no one cares about these people,” said Mr. Keane.

While those two reasons may be true, a more disturbing trend may be emerging.  Police departments across the nation receive financial compensation based on the number of arrests they report each year.  With federal grants at stake, some officers may be willing to bend or break rules in order to boost their bottom line.  There have been a handful of cases involving planted drugs or lying police offers, most notably in Texas and California, which have been linked to a desire to increase federal funding.

Adil Polanco, a New York City police officer, told ABC news in 2010 that law enforcement officials do not have the public’s best interests at heart.

“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 come back with them,” said Polanco.  “At the end of the night you have to come back with something.  You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly refuted Polanco’s remarks, saying such arrest quotas are illegal under state law, but it calls into question which person had more to gain from their statement, Polanco or Kelly?  While it’s entirely possible Polanco had a grudge against the police department, would we really expect Kelly to do anything but deny Polanco’s statement?

While you can take a lot of things away from the story, consider that it’s entirely possible that an arresting officer may tell a slightly different tale than the one that led to your arrest.  In cases like this, it is always important to have a smart legal team that understands the best way to get you out of a situation.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

As a defense attorney, I have seen officers be untruthful on the stand firsthand.  Unfortunately, most people who have little experience with the criminal justice system believe that an officer will always tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

As a community, defense attorneys have been trying to get the truth out on this matter for years, but no one really believes it when it comes from a lawyer. Sadly, people believe that defense lawyers will say anything to get their client off. Well, police officers will often say anything to get someone convicted. Maybe people will start paying attention to this problem now that it is garnering support from the non-legal community.

Related source:  New York Times

1 thought on “Police Lying under Oath Not Uncommon

  1. Yikes. While no system is perfect, it’s good to have awareness that sometimes the people that are supposed to be protecting the community don’t always have this as their first priority. I think most cops are good, but it would be naive to think this doesn’t happen sometimes. Thank goodness for good Chicago and Naperville lawyers!

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