Photo: Kelly Bracken

Photo: Kelly Bracken

The ninth of the Ten Commandments says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Most people interpret this to be a prohibition against lying. But it goes much deeper than that. Bearing false witness is much worse than just lying. It means you are intentionally lying about somebody in order to get that person in trouble, maybe even have that person punished for something he or she didn't do.

As law enforcement officers you have to put up with a lot of people bearing false witness against you. It seems to be the national pastime these days. Just last month officers on separate sides of the country had accusations of vile conduct levied at them with no basis in fact.

Rainbow City, AL, officers were accused in a Facebook post that went viral of beating a man "half to death" and throwing him off of a bridge for good measure. The Facebook item is accompanied by a graphic photo of a man in a hospital bed with a bloody mouth, and it explains that he lost teeth and had to have his tongue sewed back on because of his horrible injuries.

And not a word of it is true. OK, the time, the date, and the location are true. But that's about it.

What really happened is that a Rainbow City officer stopped a car that night for a broken tail light. While giving the female driver a warning for the light, the officer noticed her adult male passenger was "acting nervous," according to Chief Jonathon Horton.

The officer started asking the guy questions. And he got a story about not having a DL and a fake name. Then the guy produced an Alabama DL under that alias but the photo wasn't him. Additional officers arrived and one of them got the guy's real name from the driver. The original officer ran the name and found a probation revocation and two felony warrants for drugs. He then went back to speak with the man.

Which is when this guy darted away from the officers, ran across two lanes of oncoming traffic, and vaulted over the railing for a 19-foot drop over a bridge, which likely caused his injuries. Video evidence shows the officers were not anywhere near arm's reach when he went over the side. After a search for the man on the river bank below, one of the officers used a TASER on him, and he was arrested. He was given first aid and taken to the hospital.

The second incident happened in Vallejo, CA. A Vallejo officer made a traffic stop on two suspected carjackers and a person in the neighborhood recorded about five minutes of the encounter and released it to the press, claiming the officer called one of the men the N-word.

The media ate it up and played the video conveniently bleeping the reportedly offensive word, the officer was placed on leave, internal affairs got involved, and finally, somebody actually listened to the complete video and discovered the whole story was ludicrous. The officer was actually calling the man by his name, which sounded nothing like the N-word. The resident who videoed that encounter heard what he wanted to hear. He said he recorded the police encounter with those men because he thought the police were going to shoot them.

That California citizen's predisposition to believe that an officer would shoot handcuffed suspects can be traced back to the mother of all recent false witness accounts against law enforcement, "hands up, don't shoot," which was perpetuated after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

The man credited with originating that falsehood, Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, should be in prison for the mayhem he helped incite. But instead he is free and suing Officer Darren Wilson and the former chief of the Ferguson Police Department for violating his civil rights. Last week the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to let that suit proceed.

Which is an outrage. People bearing false witness against police officers need to be punished, not rewarded. This kind of lie needs to be deterred for the safety of both law enforcement officers and the public.

There are laws on the books about false reports, and people who make them against officers need to be prosecuted. They should also be liable for civil damages to the officers for sullying their reputations. These lies against you are deadly and they need to end.

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