According to a recent USA Today article, police officer misconduct remains a significant problem nationwide, as prosecutors fail to acknowledge or track their misdeeds. As a result, some people are convicted of crimes and incarcerated when they shouldn’t be.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors divulge all evidence that might assist individuals in their defense to criminal charges at trial. This rule requires prosecutors to share details with defense counsel about the police officers giving evidence in the case, including whether they previously have lied or committed misconduct. However, most police departments and prosecutors do not track this information, which leads to defense counsel and others accused of criminal activity to be unaware of and thus unable to use potential defenses in their cases. As a result, when it comes down to the word of an accused criminal against the word of a seasoned police officer, a jury is likely to side with the police officer if they have no clue about the police officer’s track record.
From Chicago to Arkansas, from Minnesota to Pennsylvania, prosecutors’ offices have no mechanisms in place to document and keep track of problem police officers. Even when they do maintain records, however, they often make them unavailable to the public, meaning that the average person cannot find out whether a police officer previously engaged in dishonest behavior on the job. In other cases, the records are incomplete and omit officers who have repeated violations and incidences of dishonesty. These poor recordkeeping habits inevitably lead to wrongful arrests, criminal charges, and convictions.
Other prosecutors’ officers maintained that they did not need a list of problem officers to follow the law. Some argued that placing officers on these lists based on unfounded accusations could cause them problems in their careers or jeopardize their jobs. Nonetheless, prosecutors must disclose officers on these lists to defendants when they are facing criminal charges based on evidence or arrests made by these officers. All too often, these disclosures do not occur.
If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.