Do Cops Lie?

by attorneyscottcampbell

Of course they do.  Everyone lies at some point, even if they justify it as a “little white lie.”  Cops are no different, though they want to be thought of as somehow above being human.

I break down the lies cops tell in three categories: the outright lie, the situational lie, and the unintentional lie.  All are just as bad when someone’s freedom is on the line, but it helps to understand the motivation for the lie so an attorney can counteract it.

The Outright Lie.  I have seen this.  It can be the planting of evidence.  It can be the lie that cannot be disproved.  It is intentional, and justified as “he is bad, I am good, and he deserves to be punished because he is bad.”  It is intended to convict someone who has done nothing but attract the attention of a cop who thinks he is a bad person.  It happens more than even police departments think it does.  It happens because the people who do it plan the lie, swear to the lie, and it can’t be disproven.

The Situational Lie.  Police sometimes lie on purpose.  They will tell you they lied and they are allowed to.  Actually, the Supreme Court of the United States has approved a lie in pursuit of the truth.  Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 371 (1969).  They will tell you that a lie in pursuit of the truth is a “good lie.”  They justify lying because, in their mind, the ends justifies the means.  I think this is just as wrong as the outright lie.  It turns the cop, who is entrusted to tell the truth, into a liar—whether intentional or not.

The real problem comes when they are testifying in court.  Can they turn it off?  Can they admit that they lied while they were doing their job?  It is human nature to say “I always tell the truth, that is why you can believe me now.”  It is much more difficult to admit to lying, then say “but now I am telling the truth.”

The Unintentional Lie.  This one is usually chalked up to different people seeing the same thing and having different points of view.  It involves shading words, hedging on accuracy, and presenting something that can be seen in two ways as absolutely one way—obviously the one that convicts the person on trial.

This lie is the hardest to deal with.  The argument will be “hey, they just see things two different ways.”  But what happens when your side is absolutely true, and the cops testimony is of this type.  It crosses over to the situational lie.

The end result, no matter how it is characterized, is that cops lie.  The next step is to deal with it.  The best was is not to even talk to the cops. (see the post below titled “Don’t Talk To The Police!”)  But, if you just can’t resist talking to someone whose sole purpose at that moment is to put you in jail, at least record the entire conversation.  Don’t rely on them to do it.  All they have to do is say they didn’t record it, or they thought they did but the recorder malfunctioned.  They will lie then lie about lying.  Record it, download it, and email it to your attorney or yourself so it doesn’t disappear.  From an attorney’s point of view, there is not much more satisfying than cramming a lying cop’s words down his throat.