The following comes from a point paper I wrote regarding “Deception in the Criminal Justice Process” for my Masters Degree a few years ago. When I wore the paper I was not interested in anything but passing the course. Turns out that worked out pretty well because I recently graduated with a 4.0 GPA with my Masters. When police “hears” another officer talking about deception, they automatically assume they are being accused personally. There are several reasons for this and many posts to follow based on solid research will demonstrate how paranoia is bread within police agencies. Officers usually think someone is always out to get them.
I worked undercover with a narc that actually bought a hand held scanner to listed to the radio when he was out buying dope and working because he thought undercover Internal Affairs (I/A) officers were watching him. He was a good police officer and really was not “dirty” but he was paranoid. Turns out, several years later he was let go for unethical behavior reasons. Deceiving those around him caused several people to get angry because when one officer is caught doing something stupid, it reflects poorly. The point is, the reason officers believe they are being sought by there agencies are because agencies love to show the public they can be trusted at the expense of their own officers. Examples need to be made and protocols to root out “bad cops” is ever present. Sometimes this happens even when an officer is not doing anything inappropriate. This at times seems counterproductive but some officers do not know any other way to the top.
Deception in the Agency:
When I was a rookie patrol officer, we had an I/A sergeant that was always filing, fishing, watching patrol recorded tapes, and basically hunting ways to “catch” officers. I was one of the most investigated officers around. The sergeant was basing the investigations of “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Instead of realizing all the complaints that were coming in did not match what was on the patrol videos and the people who were complaining were the ones losing loads of dope. After every investigation failed to provide the results the sergeant sought to “make an example”, that officer moved on and up within the agency but not before making examples out of others. The culture is difficult to explain but the example above sets the stage of the types of “drama” within departments.
Deception in the Criminal Justice Process
The criminal justice system is complex with deliberate rules and procedures to enforce those rules. Officers within the criminal justice system are responsible for maintaining public trust. Demonstrating these practices through ethical behavior and their willingness to do the right thing can be challenging while pursuing justice. The law limits what officers can do overtly and developing reasonable suspicion is not always possible in uniform while handling calls for service. Probable cause is the standard to make, build, and submit cases for prosecution. Inserting qualified undercover officers into covert investigations, their chances of developing probable cause increase exponentially. The association of ethics and the morality of doing the right thing sometimes deter making cases. Questions arise just how far an officer will go to maintain his case and to develop probable cause. Officers need to maintain their personal belief in morality and not violate the police code of ethics or they are subject to experiencing the other side of an investigation. False testimony and the distortion of facts derail officers from moral high ground.
Deception in the Interview and Interrogation Processes/The Ends Justify the Means
As a matter of ethics and morality it would not be appropriate to lie to obtain truth. Undercover officers are frequently given the reminder they do not lie, they “roll play.” The justification used for this purpose is obvious immoral by trying to compensate for an act by reasoning the validity of one against the other. Some cases of this style of deception, the ends do justify the means, as they are the least intrusive of other options for fact-finding. The ends of telling a child molester during an interview that an officer agrees and understands the act to gain a confession do justify the deed. This single act, although unethical, is more sound than illegal.
Accusations of lying under oath have come up in police cases and there is a theory by two famous police officials. Police Commissioner Kelley of New York City and Chief Bratton of Los Angeles Police Department acknowledge the facts that officers commit the practice of “testilying.” Officers get on the witness stand in open court, grand jury hearing, and the like, make mistakes to details clearly incorrect that twist cases into dismissals. Several cases on point where officers made factual arguments to further their case were found to be untrue. In these circumstances, testilying is not only unethical it is illegal. To assist in reducing officers from giving false statements unwittingly or by mistake, training is a popular suggestion to reduce the practice. Strengthening the warrant requirements is another proposal for assisting in reducing the practice. Officers broaden the scope of suspicion to appear more like probable cause in obtaining warrants (Slobogin, 1996). There is no need for officers doing legal and quality-based police work to exhibit any of this behavior.
This topic point depicts several issues that will be the basis of the next several posts.
As always, thank you for reading,