National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Video Contradicts Testimony of 5 Chicago Cops

From the Chicago Tribune:

One by one, five police officers took the witness stand at the Skokie courthouse late last month for what would typically be a routine hearing on whether evidence in a drug case was properly obtained.

But in a “Perry Mason” moment rarely seen inside an actual courtroom, the inquiry took a surprising turn when the suspect’s lawyer played a police video that contradicted the sworn testimony of the five officers — three from Chicago and two from Glenview, a furious judge found.

Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn suppressed the search and arrest, leading prosecutors to quickly dismiss the felony charges. All five officers were later stripped of their police powers and put on desk duty pending internal investigations. And the state’s attorney’s office is looking into possible criminal violations, according to spokeswoman Sally Daly.

“Obviously, this is very outrageous conduct,” a transcript of the March 31 hearing quoted the judge, a former county prosecutor, as saying. “All officers lied on the stand today. … All their testimony was a lie. So there’s strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie. … Many, many, many, many times they all lied.”

What would have happened here had there been no video?   What about other cases handled by these cops?   Was this the very first instance of dishonesty?

More on Police Lies

Letter to the editor published in the New York Times:

Last fall, the criminal defense clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law represented a young black man charged with possession of a knife (recovered from his pants pocket) after he was searched by a police officer who swore — under penalty of perjury — that the client was blocking the entrance to a building in violation of a disorderly conduct statute. A video obtained from an adjacent store revealed a very different reality — just a young kid talking with friends, never blocking anyone’s way.

Too often, though, without a video, our clients’ accounts of the lies told by police fall on deaf ears. Prosecutors and judges engage in cognitive dissonance — on the one hand understanding that police lie; on the other, failing to address the issue in any meaningful way.

Perhaps this is because our criminal justice system relies so heavily on the assumption of police as truth tellers. Acknowledging the problem threatens the very foundation of an already dysfunctional system.

For those who have experienced the corrupting effect of police lies, however, the question remains: what will it take to break a police practice that leads to so much injustice?

JENNIFER BLASSER
New York, Feb. 4, 2013

The writer is a clinical assistant professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The Truth About Police Lies

Professor Michelle Alexander in the New York Times:

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.

Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.

The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

Lawsuit Claims Sheriff’s Deputies Filed False and Misleading Search Warrant Applications, Then Seized Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

From the Daily Press:

After the Newport News Sheriff’s Office seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jayson Mickle and several of his companies last summer, the tobacco shop owner says he didn’t initially have the cash to pay his workers….

Earlier this month, [Mickle] sued Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan and eight of his sheriff’s deputies in U.S. District Court in Newport News. He contends the deputies ran roughshod over his rights and that the searches and seizures–of the cash and the store product–were illegal.

The searches and seizures were illegal, Mickle’s suit contends, because deputies included false or misleading statements on affidavits that were submitted to judicial system magistrates in order to get them to sign off on search warrants. Warrants were then issued to search stores and residences, and to confiscate money.

Several of those affidavits, the suit said, stated as a fact that deputies had earlier seized synthetic marijuana from Mickle’s properties. But in fact, the suit says, at the time of those statements the seized product had either not yet been sent to the state lab or the tests had not been performed.

And when the seized product later came back from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, nearly all the products came back as negative for synthetic marijuana listed in Virginia law.

In several cases, however, the tests came back saying that the product appeared to be synthetic marijuana, but it wasn’t on the state’s list of banned chemicals. “No controlled substances listed in (state law) were identified,” the lab said in several cases. “An unlisted synthetic cannabinoid was indicated but not identified.”

The suit claims that only one package–found in a “dusty suitcase” in a warehouse–tested positive for synthetic marijuana. Mickle said that package was not for sale and was picked up at a trade show in August 2010, well before the new state law went into effect….

Mickle said that he can’t control things “as far as what people are doing” with the product once it’s sold. He said he won’t sell the product to someone who indicates they will smoke it. “But other than that, we can’t not sell the product to someone who wants to buy it legally.”

Gray Broughton, Mickle’s lawyer with the firm of Williams Mullen, said of his client: “He is an entrepreneur, who has started up and is running a number of businesses. He has done everything he could along the way to make sure the goods and services he provides are legal.”

Broughton pointed out that no criminal charges have been filed against Mickle as a result of the sheriff’s investigation. “It’s not some seedy drug-dealing operation under the cover of darkness,” he said. “He’s opened these businesses openly, legally and honestly and doing his best to make sure they succeed.”