In Houston, a police officer with 35 substantiated misconduct complaints was the lead witness in a driving-while-intoxicated case that led to a 25-year sentence. That defendant was later exonerated.
In Baltimore, the State’s Legal professional’s Workplace requested that just about 800 convictions be vacated as a result of they relied on testimony from or investigations by officers with misconduct fees towards them.
These aren’t uncommon cases. Mix that with elevated nationwide consideration on the numerous victims of police violence, and it’s no marvel belief within the police is at a document low.
We all know from firsthand expertise that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials work exhausting and serve their communities honorably. However we’re additionally conscious that officers with histories of misconduct are sometimes allowed to remain on the pressure — and proceed to take part in arrests. And not using a course of to trace police misconduct, prosecutors usually don’t know when they’re counting on testimony from compromised officers, undermining their trials and the trustworthiness of their instances.
Prosecutors must be higher knowledgeable about which law enforcement officials have engaged in misconduct to stop these officers from being concerned of their instances. That’s the one approach to hold them from tainting the pursuit of justice in prosecutions whereas, simply as necessary, sending a message to police departments that they’ll endure penalties if problematic officers are allowed to remain on the job. This may be an necessary software in accountability when different avenues of self-discipline can’t or received’t be pursued.
As a part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, federal lawmakers proposed making a nationwide registry of police misconduct. However bipartisan talks on the measure stalled out lately. We urge lawmakers to proceed pushing for a registry, however prosecutors throughout the U.S. don’t have to attend for a federal database. They will act now.
Prosecutors are in a novel place to watch and examine dishonesty, bias and different damaging conduct by law enforcement officials. Equally necessary, prosecutors have a authorized and moral obligation to tell protection attorneys when any prosecution witness — together with a police witness — has credibility points. This consists of incidents which may not be captured within the nationwide registry proposed by the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, similar to when a decide has beforehand dominated that an officer isn’t credible.
Sadly, most prosecutors don’t observe police misconduct in an organized, systematic approach. As a substitute, line prosecutors primarily share info with each other about law enforcement officials by phrase of mouth and anecdotally, in the event that they share it in any respect. This method dangers having prosecutors pursue instances involving officers with credibility issues with out being conscious of the officers’ histories — not to mention disclosing that info to the protection.
A method prosecutors can successfully fulfill their moral obligations and maintain officers accountable is by preserving officewide databases of law enforcement officials whose credibility has been questioned. A small however rising variety of prosecutors are creating police disclosure lists (which have additionally been known as “Brady lists,” “Giglio lists” or “do-not-call lists”) that assist prosecutors show to their communities that they’re impartial of the police and are taking steps to make sure the integrity of their instances by disclosing problematic conduct to the protection.
To assist prosecutors develop their very own police disclosure lists, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay School of Legal Justice in New York lately revealed its Monitoring Police Misconduct Motion Information. The information particulars 11 suggestions to create and preserve police disclosure lists which might be honest to defendants and shield the due course of rights of police.
For instance, prosecutors engaged on legal instances don’t have to just accept the participation of police who’ve engaged in misconduct just because police departments are unwilling or unable to take away them from the pressure. As a substitute, prosecutors ought to use their police disclosure lists to establish extremely problematic officers and prohibit them from testifying. Prosecutors may even decline to prosecute instances involving officers with histories of extreme wrongdoing altogether. These easy acts ship a message to the police and the group that official misconduct has severe penalties.
Prosecutors must also have entry to the police disclosure lists in neighboring jurisdictions. Cops may switch inside states to different departments when misconduct points come up. Prosecutors ought to comply with share their lists with different prosecutors of their states — and past — to stop law enforcement officials who transfer to close by jurisdictions from evading accountability.
The deep distrust between the general public and regulation enforcement have to be repaired. Elected prosecutors could be on the forefront of this motion by systematically informing the accused when their instances contain officers with histories of misconduct and by demonstrating to their constituents that they’ll discover methods to carry the police accountable.