The thin blue lies

Testilying by cops is “the other side of the coin of this issue of police brutality. In the same way that we haven’t had good methods of keeping track of police brutality by particular officers, there has been even less keeping track of lying by officers.”— Samantha Melamed (@samanthamelamed) June 24, 2020

We were discussing whether the “l” in “testilying” was a typo or an intentional misspelling.

“It was on purpose,” I said. “The story is about how cops routinely lie in court and get away with it, something we talked about a few weeks ago. A lot of innocent people end up convicted unless there’s video disproving cops’ testimony. The person who was quoted in the article was just stating the obvious.”

Swamp Rabbit was unconvinced. “If it’s so obvious, then how come there ain’t been no public outcry to set things straight? How come the peeps put up with it?”

It depends on which peeps you’re talking about, I told him. If you’re poor and/or black, then you’ve probably had unpleasant encounters with cops and the courts, but you didn’t have the resources to fight back. You were too busy just trying to survive.

“Surviving is tougher these days,” Swamp Rabbit conceded, “but that’s on account of the virus. The justice system ain’t nearly as big a problem as that covid thing.”

We yelled so we could hear each other over the window fan in my shack. I told him the problems are related. The justice system has slowed to a crawl because of covid-19. Cops are arresting fewer people and fewer trials are being held because of the threat of spreading the virus in jails and in the courts.

“But the American justice system won’t change in the long run,” I predicted. “It’s like a meat grinder. It shreds you unless you can afford a good lawyer to challenge cop witnesses. Juries are always more likely to believe cops than defendants.”

“That might not be true no more,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Not after that video of what them cops did to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and them others. And not after the way they treated the peeps who protested them murders.”

“You’re wrong, rabbit,” I replied. “When things get back to normal, cops will get back to testilying. Juries will get back to believing them. Most of the news media, too.”

He laughed. “Things ain’t never going back to normal, whatever normal means.”

Footnote: I was called for jury duty in Philly a few days before the virus hit and the courts closed. They sit you in a big room with other potential jurors and hand you a questionnaire. One question is about whether you tend to believe the testimony of cops. I checked the “no” box because of my previous experience with cops and courts. They gave me a nine-dollar check and said, “You can go now.”

2 thoughts on “The thin blue lies

  1. Cops have been doing that since forever. Sometimes they get caught. Sometimes it matters, sometimes not.
    For example, the Oakland Housing Authority Police were so infamous for that kind of abusive behavior that after some publicity in the local press, OPD set them up, busted them, and shut them down. As in disbanded them and took their responsibilities on themselves.
    A few years later, OPD got caught doing the same damn things, in the “Riders” case, but as the OPD weren’t working with the prosecutors in that one, they all got acquitted (except one, who fled to Mexico).
    And even the disbanding of the OHA cops didn’t get rid of them, really, as their newly unemployed officers just got work in other departments. The San Francisco Park Police, for example, hired a lot of them.
    That left civil action, which landed in the courtroom of Thelton Henderson, who mandated a raft of reforms that OPD was forever behind in enacting, causing judge Henderson to repeatedly threaten to throw the whole department into receivership, causing them to promise to speed up compliance in a slow motion legal dance that lasted until judge Henderson went into semi retirement, and now OPD is on its third police chief in eighteen months.
    From here, it would appear that something beyond the in place institutional reform mechanisms will have to be employed if we ever want the police to behave better than the worst among their ranks.

Comments are closed.