Police lying is not best described as a "dirty little secret."' For
instance, police lying is no "dirtier" than the prosecutor's encouragement
or conscious use of tailored testimony2 or knowing suppression of Brady
material;3 it is no more hypocritical than the wink and nod of judges who
regularly pass on incredible police testimony4 and no more insincere than
the demagogic politicians who decry criminality in our communities, but
will not legislate independent monitoring of police wrongd~ing.~
Police lying is no "little secret" either.6 Juries, particularly in our
urban criminal courts, are thoroughly capable of discounting police
testimony as unbelievable, unreliable, and even .mendacious.' Judges,
prosecutors and defense attorneys report that police perjury is commonplace,'
and even police officers themselves concede that lying is a regular
feature of the life of a cop.g Scandals involving police misconduct-
brutality, corruption, criminality-are regularly featured in the daily
nei~spapers,'a~n d periodic investigation reports and blue-ribbon commis-
sions come up with the same conclusions: police scandals are cyclical;
official misconduct, corruption, brutality, and criminality are endemic; and
necessarily, so is police lying to disguise and deny it."
there has been a fierce
controversy on how the procedural requirements placed on police conduct
encourage police lying and duplicity in order to tailor the facts to these
legal requisites.I5 Specifically, scholars, judges, pundits, and law
enforcement professionals argue back and forth on whether or not the
exclusion of illegally obtained evidence actually deters police misconduct,
or rather encourages police perjury and "scamming," while rewarding
undeserving criminal offenders.16
Proving the Lie:
Litigating Police Credibility
David N. Dorfman*
I take the view that police lying and the kind of stuff going on in the hacking scandal give us the paradigm case of much going wrong across society. In this article, if you read long enough in the opening above, you can see part of the concern is that the apparatus of rules of evidence encourage lying. This is not an attack on cops and it does not become one in the 50 or so pages that follow.
Our legal system has long relied on fictions like ‘witness credibility’ and our business system. Journals on business ethics carry similar papers on the dirty world of commerce and banking. For that matter, none of us in the UK or US know why our soldiers died and are dying and why we’ve been killing people in wars we don’t understand. There are questions about our institutions, education, media and the state of public knowledge and how it is influenced we should be asking. The repeated problem might be described as the ‘back-fire of ignorance’ – what should be dialogue turned to adversarial debate. How can an MP, after the expenses scandal, be fit to ask a former Met detective about cover-up and corruption when they all so singularly failed with their own – a matter that only came out by whistle-blower leak for money to the press?
Scandal blows away – otherwise how could Keith Vaz be chairing a committee on, essentially, corruption (as Dickiebo despairs if you need reminding)? There’s a better way to be doing this kind of thing. It isn’t academic debate, though should be much better informed by this – a difficult matter as most people don’t read and are very set in their ways. We still do public debate through Idols Francis Bacon outlined more than 400 years ago.
We have the technology (a combination of IT and ideas) to change. History always throws up ‘cheating’. Central banks all cheated the gold standard when it was being used, practising “sterilization” to prevent gold entering the money supply – a direct contravention of the rules. They had ‘noble cause’ excuses just like the Met. The ‘Innocent Project’ has thrown up at least 50 cases where DNA proves innocence and yet the defendants confessed (these are people without low IQ or mental problems).
My own belief is we are scared of transparency, partly because all our cupboards hide skeletons. When the ‘red witch’ placed at the heart of the hacking scandal admitted she knew her organisation had paid police officers, this was seen as a blunder and admission of ‘criminality’. This is not the right approach and seems to be putting people we want to tell the truth in the same position as the police officer having to ‘game’ in the legal system.
Our own IPCC (four words all made lies by the first?) privilege what police present in a manner that can only suggest they are ignorant of academic material – and they are well-populated with graduates (this is not contradictory to me as I mark graduate submissions and find little critical ability or evidence of reading). For all the blather about not wanting a blame culture, they (and the rest of us as public) remain clueless about what one is.
If we didn’t live in such a medieval society, I’d be a rational optimist.