As public servants, police officers are supposed to be noble, honorable and trustworthy. In the last year, however, the Tampa Police Department fired six police officers, four of them for engaging in dishonest behavior. The most recently fired officer lied to deputies about his involvement in a car crash. One officer lied about his involvement in a DUI arrest of a Tampa lawyer. Another officer committed welfare fraud, and a fourth officer stole IRS money orders from the evidence room.
Investigating Officer’s Background
The integrity of police officers is a necessary part of the criminal justice system, as judges, prosecutors and juries rely upon their words when issuing warrants, pursuing indictments and delivering convictions. So what does it mean to you, the criminally charged defendant, when police officers are caught lying or stealing? It means that it might be necessary to scrutinize the background of the particular officer who was heavily involved in your case.
Finding Officer Misconduct
There may be facts suggesting he committed some deceitful conduct that contributed to the charges against you. In this situation, you need a criminal defense lawyer to investigate the officer’s background for any information that casts doubt on his credibility. For example, the police department may have internal affairs (IA) reports concerning the officer. The reports may contain previous complaints from citizens and the disciplinary actions taken against the officer.
Using Officer Misconduct
Past IA reports could alter the complexion of your case, not only at trial but also in the eyes of the prosecutor. She may be persuaded to reduce or drop the charges, or the jury may develop reasonable doubt about your guilt, if the arresting officer’s background indicates a history of lying or fabricating evidence. Whether your goal is negotiate the best plea deal or win at trial, challenging the credibility of the arresting officer can be important to your defense. After all, as demonstrated above, not all Tampa police officers are beyond reproach.
Source: The Tampa Tribune, Tampa police fire 6th officer since May, Keith Morelli, Jan. 10, 2014