Police Perjury: Is The Tide Turning?

It’s not that police testifying to whatever it is they need to accomplish the greater good of convicting people they decide deserve convicting is new.  But even when caught lying, there was always an excuse, an apology, a rationalization to cover it. And life went on.

This is what makes the conviction of two Los Angeles cops different. They got caught lying and they were prosecuted.  Not only were they prosecuted, but they were convicted. They were convicted of perjury.  From Southern California Public Radio :

Officer Richard Amio and former officer Evan Samuel testified that they chased a man into his apartment in Hollywood in 2007 and immediately saw him toss a black object that contained cocaine. A surveillance video showed it actually took four officers more than twenty minutes to find the drugs. 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement the officers actions were unacceptable.

Unacceptable? I can live with that. Reprehensible might have been better, but we take what we can get.

“I am truly saddened by the events that led to the perjury conviction of a current and a former Los Angeles Police Officer,” Beck said int he statement. “As I said when the charges were filed, I do not believe their intent was evil, just extremely misguided. The character of our organization is defined by the conduct that we condone. These actions were entirely unacceptable.”  

Unacceptable again? Fair enough.  As Chief Beck notes in his attempt to minimize the nature of the wrong and distinguish his cops from “real” criminals, “their intent was [not] evil, just extremely misguided.”  What he means is that they only lied to get the bad guy.  Yet again, the late Murray Kempton’s words ring true: “There they go again, framing the guilty.”

Aside: A quick search of the Kempton quote revealed that an  old post of mine where I used it was copied in its entirety and posted by Ademo Freeman at Copblock without attribution, or even a link back to the original. While I’m happy he thought the post worthy of taking, I’m not as happy about my content being stolen.  How about a little integrity, guys? It would be nice of you to ask first, but posting without attribution as if you wrote it isn’t cool.

There isn’t much explanation or discussion needed about the fact of perjury.  Cops believe that trials, testimony, swearing to tell the truth, is a game that’s played to give the impression that there is a legal system so the natives don’t get terribly bent out of shape. As long as citizens believe we have a system, they sleep well at night.  They also sleep well at night knowing that their brave officers keep the streets safe from murderers and rapists by putting the bad guys in prison. All is well with the world.

You see, we’re naive and silly. The cops understand their job. Rid of us criminals. Only children and defense lawyers think they’re actually supposed to tell the truth. They know better. They laugh about it over beers after a day in court.

So when the video conclusively showed these cops to be perjurers, one would expect them to get a very stern lecture from some mid-level supervisor telling them to never get caught again.  Instead, they found themselves on the receiving end of an indictment and, even more surprising, a guilty verdict.

And the Chief of Police called the conduct unacceptable.  Not evil, but misguided. 

Does this mean the rules are changing? Is it unacceptable to lie to make sure the bad guys go to prison?  it’s not likely. After all, rarely does a cop get caught.  Even when judges believe the cop is just making up a story to justify the bust, they will never find the cop a liar in the absence of irrefutable proof. Never. Their testimony is credible, even when it falls off the precipice of the absurd, because to do otherwise would destroy a finely tuned system that fools the happy natives and keeps the police unions, district attorneys and supervising judges off their backs.

But this time, the cops were convicted.  Without the video, they wouldn’t have been.  Even with video, chances are poor that anyone would face a judge, no less a jury.  There are a bunch of excuses available, including the ubiquitous “we’re going to investigate” until everybody forgets about it and moves on to the next scandal. 

Yet, this conviction, particularly in light of some other verdicts in LA and Chicago, suggests that attitudes toward the police, toward their lying, toward their violence, may be changing. Just a little. But changing. It’s a start.

7 thoughts on “Police Perjury: Is The Tide Turning?

  1. Dante

    “The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.”

    No idea who said that, but it works here.

  2. John David Galt

    What would it take to get rid of the federal rule of criminal procedure that prevents an officer’s past conviction for perjury or faking evidence can’t be revealed to jurors in every case where he has touched the evidence? Because that’s what needs to happen to stop the practices.

  3. SHG

    A conviction for perjury would be admissable when an officer testified. “Faking evidence,” without a conviction, might be asked if there’s a good faith basis, but if the officer denied it, it couldn’t be proven by extrinsic evidence.

  4. Wrongway1965

    I’m Curious..
    I’ve always heard the lawyers’ standard of ‘never ask a question if you don’t know what the answer is..
    Is this still true?
    How does this relate to a defense of a client??

    (No, I’m not a lawyer..but I play one in my head.. & I’m really good at it..)

  5. SHG

    Comments are here to discuss the post, as opposed to blank space to discuss random questions. There are tons of lawyer Q&A sites. They may suck, but they invite random questions. I do not.

    But since you asked, the idea is that when lawyers examine a witness before a factfinder, you never want to ask a question that will elicit an answer that will hurt your client, which is why the general rule is to not ask a question if you don’t already know the answer. It’s to avoid harmful surprise.

    How does this relate to a defense? Eliciting answers that are harmful to our client is a bad thing. To avoid it, we avoid asking question that could do so. Mind you, like all rules, this one is meant to be broken from time to time, but as a general rule, it’s a sound approach to not hanging the defendant.

    Could we stick to comments that related to the post from now on?

  6. John Manuel Aldaya

    Its time for the citizens of this great country to stand and put an end to police officers lying under oath, and prosecutors and judges knowingly accepting the lies in the name of justice, what are we teaching our children, we have to make the authorities countable for their testimony under oath, we have to change the rule of law, anarchy is in place, and if we the citizens dont fight to change the system, what future will our children have , whose worst the one that supposely violates the law or the authorities that lie to enforce it, I would say its a corrupt system, that needs an overhaul, starting with descrepit, and senial federal judges that hold their post until they die, who needs this judges holding this post forever, they should retire at the age of 65, and go and enjoy there retirement check and give way for younger judges to take over their position, so justice can be better served, in the hands of a person that has a fresh, and more functional mind, and not someone that is sick and should be resting or in a nursing home, let someone younger preside, so he can make the right judgement in the lifes of the citizens he presides, in God we trust this will change soon, so we can have a better future for our children, make every citizen accountable, so we can have fair justice for all. God Bless America.

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