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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Telling the Truth

One episode of lying can ruin your law enforcement career.

June 21, 2013  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of William Harvey.
Photo courtesy of William Harvey.
There are so many things we worry about along a police career. Most all of us worry about "the call," career-ending injuries, acts of terrorism, or when stuff gets real. Want to add another real career killer to the list, just lie. Yes, tell a lie and your career will be over.

The court case of Brady v. Maryland (1963) requires that prosecutors disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government's possession to the defense. This will often be referred to as "Brady material" or evidence the prosecutor is required to disclose under this rule. Any evidence favorable to the accused including attacking your credibility is fair game. So if you have been deceitful in your professional career, you and your career are fair game in the courtroom.

So have you been intentionally deceptive in your career? This can take shape in several ways. One, have you ever been intentionally deceptive in formal proceedings such as testifying in court or with internal affairs?  Secondly, have you ever withheld information or were deceptive about criminality during police actions? Perhaps you didn't want to squeal, so you stood behind a code of silence?

Have you ever maliciously fabricated evidence to strengthen your case. We once called it "padding" or "flaking" when an officer added more products to push a drug arrest to felony levels. These are but the short list of sins that will get you labeled a "Brady Cop."

Giglio v. United States (1972), which states that the prosecution must provide defense with any information germane to the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses, further extends the concept. It requires the prosecution and police to make efforts to discover information that speaks to a witness's creditability. Sounds simple, right? Check into your witnesses, maybe one of them has lived a life of deceit and lies. However, this list includes you! If you have been sanctioned for deceit in an internal investigation, it will be disclosed.

If the prosecution does not disclose material exculpatory evidence under these rules, and prejudice has ensued, the evidence will be suppressed. The evidence will be suppressed regardless of whether the prosecutor knew the evidence was in his or her possession, or whether or not the prosecutor intentionally or inadvertently withheld the evidence from the defense.

The defendant bears the burden of proving that the undisclosed evidence was material, and the defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that there would be a difference in the outcome of the trial had the evidence been disclosed by the prosecutor.

Intentional, malicious, or deceptive conduct will permanently destroy an officer's credibility. Should an officer violate these standards, there is no alternative in an employment context other than termination or permanent removal from any possible activity where the officer could be called upon to be a witness to any action. Yes, it can be that serious.

The shine of your shield or polish of your shoes won't save you. The jury only wants to hear the truth. It's expected that police officers embrace the truth and that's the pivot that the scales of justice balance on. Years ago, I was updating a lesson plan on courtroom testimony. An astute judge once told me that without your truth and veracity you are nothing in his courtroom. He said, "Cherish it and guard it with your life." This advice is priceless. 

Tags: Officer Court Testimony, Officer Conduct, Officer Misconduct


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Tom Ret @ 6/25/2013 3:48 PM

Apparently there is an exception to the rule specified in this article-namely
Eric Holder.

Modern Knight @ 6/25/2013 8:08 PM

Honesty is essential for a police officer. Become a "Brady Cop" and you become virtually unemployable in law enforcement.

http://modernknight.org/?p=777 "Tell the Truth"

KB @ 6/26/2013 2:49 PM

I agree whole heartedly that Honesty and integrity in our Officers is a must. This Brady/Gogglio issue however has taken on a life of it's own around our area of the Country and in other jurisdictions I have talked with. We are having Candidates not even getting hired now if they confess to stealing a candy bar when they were a child. One Officer in his 30's on an agency close to ours, who is also a decorated war veteran was removed from the SWAT Team and is eneligable for future promotions for stealing candy when he was 13 years of age. They only found out about it because he confessed to it during their hiring process when he was hired several years ago. This came up when a Giglio list investigation was started between their agency and the DA's Office. The concept here is suppose to be that an Offense needs to be disclosed to the Judge in the case and the judge is supposed to make the determination IF the Officer's Offense discredits him in the case at hand. It seems however that DA's offices are now trying to make a determination on their own before hand and refusing to take cases if an Officer is involved that has ever had any wrong doing in his life at any time. Sad day when a decorated Officer and Decorated Marine gets screwed over for a misd that he was never charged for when he was a child. Definite win for the criminal population!

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