Lawyers have long complained that some police officers will give clearly false testimony to protect themselves, other officers, or just maintain the “thin blue line.” This week, we saw two detectives in Michigan indicted with a judge and prosecutor for false testimony. The latest such case out of New York involves New York City detective, Debra Eager, 41, who was indicted on three felony perjury charges after her testimony before a grand jury in 2007 drug case was contradicted by a videotape.
For months, we have been following various cases like the ransacking incident where New York police have found to have lied about arrest. That includes the abuse of cyclist Christopher Long by Patrick Pogan, here. A video shows Pogan striking Long without provocation. Notably, Long was charged with assault and resisting arrests, common charges used when officers stack counts to try to force the defendant to plea guilty in a deal (and thereby avoid a trial).
In January, two undercover narcotics officers, Officer Henry Tavarez and Detective Stephen Anderson, were charged with official misconduct and conspiracy when they learned that they were captured on such a videotape. They stated that they arrested men on a “buy and bust” in a bar in Queens, but the video showed that they had no contact with the men.
Likewise, in February, police officer Maurice Harrington, was confronted with a videotape showing him hitting truck driver, Michael Cephus, 10 times with a metal baton without cause. Click here for the video.
In February, Officer David London was indicted on charges of assault and filing false records after a surveillance camera showed him pulling a man from an elevator and beat him 18 to 20 times with a baton. Officer London has pleaded not guilty.
Speaking of London, these cases show how the value of such videotapes and more importantly the dangers of the recent law in England making it a crime to photograph police officers.
The New York City Council and NYPD have a lot to address in this pattern. False police testimony has long been ignored or tolerated by prosecutors. That is why the Michigan case is so important. Part of the problem is that many prosecutors will do little when faced with highly suspicious or conflicted testimony. There needs to be a serious effort to address this problem, which diminishes not only the trust of the public but hurts the vast majority of officers who testify truthfully.
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