A relatively routine drug case in Chicago was the catalyst of felony perjury
charges being filed against four Chicago area police officers. Allegations
of police perjury in various cases over the years are nothing new. What
is rare – the equivalent of lightning striking the same person twice
rare - is a police officer being charged by prosecutors for his or her
perjury. However, this week in Chicago four officers, three from the Chicago
Police Department, and one from the Glenview Police Department were charged
with felony perjury by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office.
Many readers might think to themselves, so what? What is newsworthy about
a police officer being charged with perjury? The reason these charges
are of interest in the legal community is because of the well-known aversion
of the overwhelming majority of prosecutors to bring charges against cops.
Cops and prosecutors work together in seeking to convict persons accused
of crimes. Testimony from police officers is an essential component of
any prosecution. Naturally, most prosecutors are not thrilled at the prospect
of charging essential police witnesses with perjury. This kind of allegation
has the ability to raise doubts about any case the officer who is charged
with perjury is working on, or has worked on. That is why many courtroom
insiders hold the opinion that many prosecutors are inclined to turn a
blind eye to crimes committed by police officers.
The underlying case in Chicago which is the basis for the perjury allegations
involved a 2013 traffic stop which included a search of the suspect’s
automobile. The search of the car resulted in the discovery of approximately
one pound of marijuana. Unfortunately for the officers, the rendition
of the stop and car search which they testified to was contradicted by
dash cam video footage which indicated facts completely inconsistent with
their sworn testimony. The defendant’s criminal defense lawyer had
subpoenaed the video and was able to contradict all four officers by playing
the tape in court.
Modern technology has made it increasingly hazardous for law enforcement
to concoct favorable factual scenarios for courtroom use. Dash cams, body
cameras, and by-standers shooting footage with cell-phones have all resulted
in recent indictments of police officers for criminal activity. Of course,
many of the officers, unaware of the fact that they are being impeached
have falsified police reports, and worse, committed perjury in criminal
prosecutions. This of course begs the question, how long has this been
going on? No one really can answer that question. It stands to reason
that most officers take their ethical duties seriously and act accordingly;
however, if recent events are a guide, it is also reasonable to infer
that over the years there have probably been a number of criminal cases
tainted with various degrees of perjury.
The defendant in the Chicago case is a lucky man. A less diligent lawyer
might have overlooked obtaining the crucial videotape which caused the
Judge to disbelieve the officers in the case. This week’s perjury
charges mean that the officers involved in the case will also be retaining
their own criminal defense lawyers. Ironically, it appears that they will
require counsel as talented and thorough as the defendant’s lawyer.