When a police officer lies, it can destroy a person’s life, resulting in a prison term, loss of employment, and reputation.
Not all police officers lie. But, as the recent New York Times Opinion article notes, it is not uncommon for police officers to lie. Moreover, in many cases, the criminal justice system provides incentives for them to lie. More drug arrests means more money for the police department. There are federal grant programs, such as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program , that award millions of dollars in funding to state and local police departments based partly on the number of people arrested for drug offenses. The money is rewarded regardless of how minor the drug offense is or how little evidence there is to support it. These federally funded drug task forces have been linked to numerous scandals involving police lying or planting drugs.
In addition to the cash financial incentives to reward police for the number of arrests, there are often quota systems for police, who need to look like they have been “productive” during their shift.
When a police officer lies, it can destroy a person’s life, resulting in a prison term, loss of employment, and reputation. Further, when a police officer lies it is not the same as another witness lying. The public, who are members of the jury and charged with determining whether a defendant is guilty, are taught from a very young age to trust police officers. If a police officer and a criminal suspect tell completely different stories – it is not difficult to guess whom the jury will believe. The police officer, who is well groomed, in uniform, and very articulate in court – vs — the suspected criminal, who is often poor, not as articulate, not as educated, and may already have a criminal record.
The quota systems and financial incentive grants that reward police for the volume of people arrested are dangerous to the proper functioning of our justice system. However, until such systems are outlawed and the number of police lies decrease, it is extremely important for a criminal defendant to find an attorney who is experienced in dealing with the police and prosecutors, and who is not afraid to go to trial and cross-examine police officers as to the accuracy and truthfulness of their stories.