1932

Abstract

Police officers regularly serve as government witnesses in criminal cases. In recent years, they have also increasingly found themselves as defendants facing criminal charges, civil lawsuits, or both. This article surveys scholarly literature on police officers as both witnesses and defendants, with a focus on sociological and legal barriers to understanding officer deception, assessing officer testimony, and holding officers accountable for misconduct. With respect to officers as witnesses, these barriers include the prevalence of police officer perjury, judicial deference to officers’ testimony, and laws and policies that prevent defendants from learning about or exposing officer misconduct and unreliability. Charging and suing officers present additional logistical and substantive questions. These questions include who should be responsible for investigating and deciding whether to prosecute police, what protocols should guide those investigations, whether police prosecutions meaningfully improve policing or ensure accountability, and what role the civil legal system should play in addressing police misconduct.

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2023-10-05
2024-06-17
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