Are Police Allowed To Lie?

Cops, Lying, Testilying And Perjury

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Are Police Allowed To Lie?

Yes. Police can, will, and often do lie -- especially if it helps them make arrests. One obvious example of this is when undercover officers claim not to be police. The rules regarding entrapment usually tip in favor of law-enforcement, so police won't hesitate to trick you into incriminating yourself or others. This is particularly common during interrogations in which officers might tell you that "your friend already gave you up, so you might as well come clean." The best defense against these manipulative tactics is to avoid saying anything to police without first speaking with an attorney. But this lying, allowed by law, is routinely extended to willful lies, falsification of documents and perjury.

Alan Derschowitz discusses cops, lying, testilying and
the rampant perjury routinely committed by police.

This page was taken from testimony given by famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

This article is also part of 21st Century Policing - Sane Solutions

Excerps from the article: The following year, I represented, on appeal, a lawyer accused of corruption. The major witness against him was a policeman who acknowledged at trial that he himself had committed three crimes while serving as a police officer. He denied that he had committed more than these three crimes. It was subsequently learned that he had, in fact, committed hundreds of additional crimes, including some he specifically denied under oath. He too was never prosecuted for perjury, because a young Assistant U.S. Attorney, named Rudolph Giuliani, led a campaign against prosecuting this admitted perjurer. Shortly afterward, the policeman explained:

Cops are almost taught how to commit perjury when they are in the Police Academy. Perjury to a policeman - and to a lawyer, by the way - is not a big deal. Whether they are giving out speeding tickets or parking tickets, they're almost always lying. But very few cops lie about the actual facts of a case. They may stretch an incident or whatever to fit it into the framework of the law based on what they consider a silly law of the Supreme Court.9

Nor is the evidence of police perjury merely anecdotal. Numerous commission reports have found rampant abuses in police departments throughout the country. All objective reports point to a pervasive problem of police lying, and tolerance of the lying by prosecutors and judges, all in the name of convicting the factually guilty whose rights may have been violated and whose convictions might be endangered by the exclusionary rule.

As the Mollen Commission reported:

The practice of police falsification in connection with such arrests is so common in certain precincts that it has spawned its own word: "testilying." . . . Officers also commit falsification to serve what they perceive to be "legitimate" law enforcement ends - and for ends that many honest and corrupt officers alike stubbornly defend as correct. In their view, regardless of the legality of the arrest, the defendant is in fact guilty and ought to be arrested.10

Even more troubling, in the Mollen Commission's view, "the evidence suggests that the . . . commanding officer not only tolerated, but encouraged, this unlawful practice." The commission provided several examples of perjured cover stories that had been suggested to a young officer by his supervisor:

Scenarios were, were you going to say
(a) that you observed what appeared to be a drug transaction;
(b) you observed a bulge in the defendant's waistband; or
(c) you were informed by a male black, unidentified at this time, that at the location there were drug sales.

QUESTION: So, in other words, what the lieutenant was telling you is "Here's your choice of false predicates for the arrest."

OFFICER: That's correct. Pick which one you're going to use.11

Nor was this practice limited to police supervisors. As the Mollen Commission reported:

Several former and current prosecutors acknowledged - "off the record" - that perjury and falsification are serious problems in law enforcement that, though not condoned, are ignored. The form this tolerance takes, however, is subtle, which makes accountability in this area especially difficult.12

The epidemic is conceded even among the highest ranks of law enforcement. For example, William F. Bratton, who has headed the police departments of New York City and Boston, has confirmed that "testilying" is a "real problem that needs to be addressed." He also placed some of the responsibility squarely at the feet of prosecutors:

When a prosecutor is really determined to win, the trial prep procedure may skirt along the edge of coercing or leading the police witness. In this way, some impressionable young cops learn to tailor their testimony to the requirements of the law.13

Many judges who listen to or review police testimony on a regular basis privately agree with Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who publicly stated: "It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers," and that the reason for it is that "the exclusionary rule . . . sets up a great incentive for . . . police to lie to avoid letting someone they think is guilty, or they know is guilty, go free."14 Or, as Judge Irving Younger explained, "Every lawyer who practices in the criminal courts knows that police perjury is commonplace."15

See testimony for the full article and notes.

9. See Dershowitz, The Best Defense, supra note 8, at 377. This was confirmed in a book entitled Prince of the City (and a motion picture of the same name), whose contents were approved by the policeman. See Robert Daley, Prince of the City (1978).

10. Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Practices of the Police Department, Milton Mollen, Chair; July 7, 1994, at 36 [hereinafter Mollen Report]. The report then went on to describe how officers reported a litany of manufactured tales. For example, when officers unlawfully stop and search a vehicle because they believe it contains drugs or guns, officers will falsely claim in police reports and under oath that the car ran a red light (or committed some other traffic violation) and that they subsequently saw contraband in the car in plain view. To conceal an unlawful search of an individual who officers believe is carrying drugs or a gun, they will falsely assert that they saw a bulge in the person's pocket or saw drugs and money changing hands. To justify unlawfully entering an apartment where officers believe narcotics or cash can be found, they pretend to have information from an unidentified civilian informant. Id. at 38.

11. Mollen Report, supra note 10, at 41.

12. Mollen Report, supra note 10, at 42.

13. Boston Globe, November 15, 1995, at 1.

14. Stuart Taylor, Jr., For the Record, American Lawyer, Oct. 1995, at 72.

15. Irving Younger, The Perjury Routine, The Nation, May 8, 1967, at 596-97.


Many times the reason or purpose for events in our life initially escapes us,
but I am certain we can find reason and/or purpose in everything that happens!

It takes a short time to learn to exercise power, but a lifetime to learn how to avoid abusing it.

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