Why police lie under oath

Check out this  important article in the New York Times: Why Police Lie Under Oath, by Michelle Alexander. In the article, Michelle Alexander describes how federal grant programs richly reward police departments that arrest greater numbers of people. This causes police supervisors to compel their police officers to make more arrests. In order to meet this pressure some police officers lie and charge people with crimes even if no crime occurred.

Understanding the monetary motivation behind police officers’ lies is important because people often assume that officers have no reason to lie. Many people, including judges and juries, trust officers to tell the truth because it’s hard to believe that officers could benefit from lying. However, Michelle Alexander’s article makes it clear officers actually have a strong incentive to lie. This results in innocent people being arrested without probable cause.

Police officers are rarely disciplined for lying. However, in two of our cases in 2012, police officers were fired for their lies and other misconduct. Boston police officer David Williams was fired for using unreasonable force on our client, and for lying about his use of excessive force. And Somerville Police Officer Marcos Freitas was terminated because he had lied repeatedly, including some lies at a deposition taken in our case against him. Additionally, in 2004, after we filed a case against Boston police sergeant Joseph LeMoure, he was convicted of perjury for lying at his deposition and encouraging witnesses to lie. While these police officers were punished for their harmful lies and other misconduct, police officers routinely get away with lying under oath. This isn’t going to change until the judges in criminal cases stop tolerating testimony by untruthful police officers and federal grant programs stop rewarding high arrest rates.

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