Ask A Cop: Unbiased Opinion

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Illustration: Steve Thueson

Dear Cop,

I need an unbiased opinion on an officers conduct. That is, while I was re-reading a witness statement for the umpteenth time, I noticed the detective – during what is presented as this witnesses initial statement – revieled he had had a prior discussion about this case, with this key witness:
Detective states: “Yeah. Yeah. I think when you and I talked before you mentioned something bout …. That he was gonna,”
Witness responds: “Yeah …” and addresses what their last discussion was about – that isn’t raised at anytime prior in this interview.
Isnt this police misconduct – equating to witness tampering? He admits he previously spoke to the states key witness – the state affirms there is no record of – and then cue’s the witness to talk about issues he’d forgotten to raise – as rehersed!?
Your thoughts on this – and how someone can hold a shysty cop accountable for this conduct is appreciated.
Corey, my friend,
Unbiased? Well, I’m not the one to ask if you want 100-percent unbiased. If you read my diatribe with any regularity, you know that I try to be honest and fair, usually—but, I am human, and by nature I want to protect the cop. That’s not always possible, and that’s when my honesty and fairness kicks in.
I don’t know the context of the “prior discussion” you refer to, but if it was regarding testimony, ex parte, during a hearing where the exclusionary rule is invoked, that’s troubling and wrong.
If it’s outside a trial venue, and the dick is setting up or leading the witness to a conclusion, that’s equally troubling and wrong. An example would be showing an identification six-pack photo lineup to a victim, and tapping your pen on photo Number Four. That’s going to get the ID tossed in court.
Regarding my nature to protect the cop, I’m not going to say it’s generally misconduct. I will say that, it’s a stupid, bush-league error in judgment that rookie cops make. They don’t realize their error until the case is tossed and guilty, bad people go free. Successful investigators know that it’s not the huge-ego, arrogant-asshole cop who puts together good cases. It’s the humble, soft-spoken manipulator who impels a conviction—the cop whom the bad guy never saw coming.
If there’s evidence that the conversation happened, and someone admits to it, then the misconduct would have occurred when the prosecutor failed to disclose the conversation to defense counsel during discovery. Cops and prosecutors are accused of discovery-requirement lapses all the time. If it’s intentional, then it is misconduct, but legit occurrences are rare. Almost every time I’ve seen it, perpetrated by either prosecution or defense, it’s an honest mistake and quickly corrected. However, motions by defense related to your scenario happen and, many times, it’s a tactic to get a better deal for their clients. Also, scare tactics and threats have been used to intimidate some prosecutors.
As I’ve written so many times, if your scenario is as described above, there is process, both administratively, through internal affairs, and recorded in open court by motions, which deal with and correct this “misconduct.” If a cop is found to have intentionally misled a witness or manipulated facts, that cop is done as a cop, forever.
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