Everyday Incidents

 Posted on August 14, 2008 in Uncategorized

Not all cops lie. But if perjury is committed at the criminal courthouse, it's likely committed by someone with a badge and a gun - that is, a law enforcement officer. There's even a term of art for it among the law enforcement community: "testilying".

I see three reasons for this.

First, statistically, cops testify a lot more than anyone else. Five times as much? Twenty times? So they get more opportunities to perjure themselves.

Second cops often feel that the end justifies the means. A little lie to the court or the jury is worthwhile if it serves to put some punk in prison where he belongs. (After all, the system is broken, right?)

Third, as PJ points out in his comment here, cops "know who gets prosecuted for criminal acts and who does not". That is, cops don't get prosecuted for perjury because their perjury is in the interest of those who have the power to prosecute.

Not all cops who lie are willing to perjure themselves. Many times cops on the witness stand tell different stories (the truth) than what they had put in their offense reports (lies). Unfortunately, though, most cases never make it to trial (often the lies are too small to be relied upon to affect the outcome), so prosecutors - despite having seen this happen more than I have - rely on offense reports as the literal truth in deciding how to resolve cases. (The lesson to defense lawyers is, of course, not to make that mistake, to listen to your client, and to remember that good things happen when you try cases. Nobody ever got acquitted by pleading guilty.)

Also unfortunately, cops don't correct or report each other's misdeeds. (Don't take my word for it; see Joel Rosenberg's Thought Experiment [h/t Simple Justice].) So when a cop tells a little white lie, the only way he's going to get caught is if he gets on the stand and tells the truth, and the DA's office is, I daresay, never going to prosecute an officer in such straits.

I'm thinking about offering a cash prize for any Houston or Harris County law enforcement officer who has been on the job for more than a year, and can pass a polygraph (administered by ex-DEA agent John Swartz) while saying that he has never failed to report the misconduct of another officer.

What do you guys think? Have I got it wrong? Will my money be at risk?

Uncle Ken?

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