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Don’t Trust the Cops: Police Officers Have an Incentive to Lie Under Oath

People facing prosecution often plead guilty to crimes instead of facing a jury, usually because they believe juries are quicker to take the NYPD2word of a police officer than an alleged criminal. They’re right. Juries believe police officers, but many police officials now say that corruption in police ranks is at an all time high, and that people shouldn’t  trust the word of a police officer any more than the word of the accused.

In a New York Times article, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, recounts what Former San Francisco Police Commissioner Peter Keane wrote in an article for The San Francisco Chronicle, where he described lying among police officers:

“Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The fact is, police have an incentive to lie. They have cases to win, and like prosecutors, they sometimes value the win more than justice.

In his article, Mr. Keane continued, saying that police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.”

Police officers are rewarded based on their number of stops and arrests, so there’s absolutely no reason for them to ever admit any wrongdoing.


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