Perjury Haiku

Police often lie.

In court, on stand, under oath.

Somehow that’s okay?

The L.A. Times ran this story the other day about a trial and acquittal after which the jurors were fully convinced, partially thanks to a video, that the police were flat out lying on the witness stand. The jurors have spoken out about the obvious police fabrication. But their calls for investigation into, and prosecution for, the three officers’ lies has been met with the official response that the officers made some mistakes and may need some more training. In fact, one of the officers has been retrained so well in the brief time since his perjury that he has since been promoted to detective.

In case you were not aware, perjury is a crime when normal people do it. When police do it, however, it’s just part of the job. And it rarely gets noticed, except by the defendant and counsel. A common sentiment amongst those who don’t know any better is “Why would they lie?”

It seems so obvious (unlike the reason why this post is bookended by haiku, which even I don’t really understand), but I’ll explain:

Police have a stake in the outcome of criminal trials. They make arrests and they want them vindicated in court. They prefer a specific outcome at trial. That is the definition of witness bias. In economics, they call it an incentive.

Further, officers face little or no counterbalance to their incentive to lie. As evidenced by the Times story, police don’t get punished even when they are caught and called out for lying in court under oath. Some get promoted.

Now, I’m not saying all police are perjurers. Nor is every false statement by police on the witness stand an intentional misrepresentation of fact. Police, despite some of their delusions, are people too, and thus subject to the same flaws of memory and perception that we all are.

But some cops do lie.

And they get away with it.

Justice, that is not.

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