Over the last several decades, law enforcement officers have been facing more pressure because a significant number of them become untruthful in their working places. This issue resulted in numerous controversial debates, especially due to an enormous number of examples in federal law that involved cases of the untruthfulness of local or state law enforcement officers . These precedents may serve as the instructions for the professional conduct of police officers. Therefore, this paper examines whether it is vital to impose disciplinary actions or terminations to those who were unable to prove their credibility.
The untruthful behavior of the law enforcement officers causes damaging effects on the day-to-day police services. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that due to the avoidance of any disciplinary actions people start hesitating in the efficiency and effectiveness of the police department services. Thus, it is important to understand that the police officers’ truthfulness should not be evident only in the court but it should stay the core of any law enforcement services.
Importance of Police Credibility
Over the centuries, the violation of the ethical code of conduct has made an adverse and harmful impact not only on the police officer’s profession but on many others as well. There has been not so much attention paid to the law enforcement officers’ work because people believe they have a unique position (Serpas & Hagar, 2010). They always certify under oath as a part of their job demand. Citizens trust them because they make reports based on their observations and investigations for the further use in court proceedings as the evidence (Serpas & Hagar, 2010). The law enforcement officers have access to confidential and privileged information, maintain crime evidence, and even can sometimes use deadly force (Serpas & Hagar, 2010). With the implementation of such services, people’s expectation of their truthfulness and credibility is high. They should earn the respect and confidence of the community. The success of law enforcement officers lies in the reliability of the members representing them. Their effectiveness depends on their interaction with citizens, court testifying, and any official information provision.
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Sometimes, law enforcement officers intentionally and directly disgrace their profession. They purposefully hide the truth of their misconduct from their chiefs and community. It is a fundamental issue to be an honest and honorable police officer (Verry, 2011). People consider that the termination is the only justified and proper penalty for those who wrongfully behave or lie. The liability of police departments and agencies is to handle the behavior of a dishonest officer (Verry, 2011).
The employees of these departments should take all necessary steps for prevention of untruthful conduct and the discharge of police officers from their agencies (Verry, 2011). However, there is a difference between accused officers and those, who are actually dishonest. Moreover, if police officers receive charges against their behavior, it does not necessarily mean that they are guilty (Verry, 2011).
If the police department does not terminate the guilty law enforcement officer for a lie or false police report, it should take care of the credibility of the future officer’s testimony in court (Verry, 2011). However, the more concerning issue for the department is the disclosure of evidence favorable to the defense. If the officers do not disclose their untruthfulness, there is a civil right to deprive them of the right of the defendant (Verry, 2011).
There are an enormous number of demands when keeping law enforcement officers in the department after finding their guilt. Chiefs of police should disclose the personnel’s files to the prosecutors. Moreover, they should provide facts that would sustain the dishonest behavior of the department’s members (Verry, 2011). To save the officer’s credibility and end up the court trial with an acquittal, the defense should use this disclosure for the future welfare of the defended officer. However, it is vital to remember that if the officer does not want to disclose the untruthful conduct, it may lead to further civil suits (Verry, 2011).
Supreme Court Cases
It is impossible to state that police officers are not liable while disclosing the information to the prosecutors. However, sometimes they fail to uncover justifying evidence. There are several Supreme Court cases, obliging law enforcement officers to provide the information on the defendants to the prosecutors. Furthermore, these court decisions specify the further potential civil liability that goes on with their failure to do so.
The first case is Brady v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court’s judicial opinion was that prosecutors’ duty was to disclose the justified facts to the accused party in the court proceeding (Judge, 2005). According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, if the state counsel hides the information that may be beneficial to the offender, it is a violation of the process (Civil Liability, 2009). This lawsuit was brought against the men who committed a murder during the robbery. The accused, Brady, claimed that he took part in the robbery, but another defendant committed a homicide. Thus, the Supreme Court found that the prosecuting counsel did not disclose the confession of another defendant of killing to a Brady’s attorney (Judge, 2005).
Other cases described below explained that the justified information might either show the credibility of the accused police officer or even become the reason for the dismissal from office. The Supreme Court obligation is to prove witness’s credibility. Sometimes, defendants get promises of the lighter sentence, cancelation of prosecution, or even a monetary reward (Civil Liability, 2009). For instance, in the case of Giglio v. United States, the co-conspirator received the promise from the prosecutor not to prosecute him (Davis, 2015). According to the Brady rule, in case the witness’ evidence is central and material to either guilt or innocence, the evidence non-disclosure violates the process (Davis, 2015).
The consequences of failing to provide justified evidential information may be adverse. If the conviction is not fully reliable, there is a requirement of another trial (Civil Liability, 2009). In the case of Kyles v. Whitley, the prosecuting counsel could not provide justified information, not knowing about the evidence in police files (Judge, 2005). The Supreme Court decided that even if the prosecutor was unaware of this information, it was important to establish procedure that would carry the burden and to inform every single lawyer who worked on this case about the mistake made (Judge, 2005).
The Supreme Court may also extend legal provision by understanding the importance of the justified evidence disclosure, even if there is no request for it. In the case of the United States v. Augurs, the woman convicted of the murder of a male partner claimed self-defense (Judge, 2005). The defendant attorney found out that the prosecutor could not disclose the information on woman’s guiltiness, and thus, violated the court procedure (Judge, 2005).
Finally, the case of the United States v. Bagley proved that the disclosure of material evidence might substantially alter the result of the due process (Judge, 2005). It also specified that it is important not to hide the impeachment evidence from the defense. The government failed to disclose any information on the connection of an accused with weapons and previous narcotic charges (Judge, 2005). The Court considered this information material, as it could help to find the motives of the defendant.
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Disciplinary Action vs. Termination
All facts and cases considered, if I were the Chief of Police and found out about the untruthfulness on my personnel, it would be difficult to handle this situation. Being a police officer is a rewarding occupation, which involves a commitment to the community. In my opinion, if the law enforcement officers are untruthful and, at the same time, violate the ethical code of professional conduct, they disgrace and disrespect this profession.
If I found that one of the officers in my department uses the computer for searching pornographic websites and denies it, I would try to investigate this matter properly. Later, after admitting his wrongdoings, I would search his personal files and try to understand whether he has been involved in any types of offenses. Taking into account that the police officer has a virtually clean record and no convictions, his termination cannot be a wise solution.
The police officer has worked for an organization for fifteen years and his professional conduct was appropriate for the last decade. He served the police department according to its rules and regulations and patrolled the community. Keeping in mind his professional service, I would give him a second chance and only impose disciplinary action. The police officer promised he would never engage in the same wrongdoings again and he would continue serving his service professionally. I believe that if the officer eventually admitted his fault, it is the first step to cleaning up his acts. Thus, it is vital to remember that it can never be too late to mend.
The ultimate goal of every law enforcement officer is to provide truthful, efficient, and effective information and services to the community. This profession includes strong ethical duties. The police code of ethical conduct set rules and guides the helpful service of the officer to the society. The Chiefs of Police should ensure that officers follow laws and rules because citizens consider them honest guardians of order. If the officer violates the code of ethics and denies it, it is important to try him in court and further terminate from a professional service. However, there are exceptions that may prove that disciplinary actions may also be a good warning for the police officer.