The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office compiled a list last year. There was a noble purpose in mind for creating the list. They wanted to locally tackle a national problem: police misconduct in the form of falsifying evidence, framing suspects and lying about in the courtroom.
According to a recent news story, the District Attorney’s Office had asked the Police Misconduct Review Committee to assemble the list to keep certain officers from testifying in court. These officers had a history of lying, brutality or racial bias. The list has not been made public and was intended for internal use. Prosecutors did not want it released for privacy concerns.
Past convictions implications
There’s worry that releasing the list could conceivably taint past convictions. The article said that attorneys for hundreds of past defendants were not informed that the arresting officer was someone from the list.
This has happened before
A Seattle Times article from 2007, reported about a similar list kept by the King County Prosecutor’s Office of law enforcement officers with credibility problems. A review of court files and disciplinary records involving the Seattle officers showed that some of the officers lied, one destroyed documents, another used racial epithets, while another threatened to kill someone.
The Philadelphia Inquirer story references wanting to combat testilying, that is, “falsifying evidence, framing suspects, and lying about it in court.” Police perjury, in other words. In a Chicago Tribune story, the term is attributed to the New York police by a commission report on corruption in the New York City police department.
An example of testilying
The Chicago Tribune story told about a case of testilying: Chicago police testified in court that when they asked for license and proof of insurance during a traffic stop, the officer smelled marijuana. The officer ordered the suspect from the car and searched it, finding a pound of marijuana. However, the dash cam video told a different story. In the video, the officer approached the car, reached in the window to unlock it and ordered the suspect to step out. The officer, handcuffed and escorted the suspect to a cruiser before searching the vehicle. The difference between the officer’s testimony and the video is the difference between a permissible search and an illegal one. The judge threw out the evidence and the defendant filed a federal lawsuit and received a $195,000 settlement.
You have rights
Under Pennsylvania and federal law, to arrest someone, police need probable cause. Police cannot pursue a case against you to cause you harm. An experienced defense attorney can help protect your rights and make sure that you have been treated fairly.