Police officers lie in arrest reports, court testimony and internal investigations. The lie to suspects, to victims, to judges and to one another. They lie pervasively in the course of their work, a volume of deception enabled by prosecutors, police unions, departmental policies and the lack of government oversight. When they are caught, discipline is so unlikely or mild that nothing changes. When they are sued, the taxpayer foots the bill, not the department. So what, asks Mark Joseph Stern, can be done about it?
What would happen if a city really tried to eliminate testilying? I posed this question to Bennett Capers, a former federal prosecutor and Fordham Law professor who studies police lies. "In all honesty, I think my initial reaction would be that the system cannot exist without it," he told me. "It would grind to a halt." Capers said that "run of the mill policing would have to change. We are doing about 13 million misdemeanor arrests a year. With a lot of those small crimes, there's fudging. Nobody's paying attention."
Police, in other words, would have to stop arresting so many people for minor crimes. Once cities stopped deploying officers to harass misdemeanants, they could shrink their police force, reducing the number of encounters between cops and civilians.
Stern's article is a must-read, but the tl;dr is sadly obvious: there is not much that can be done about it that is also politically likely.
Consider Dan Hodges' famous remark about Sandy Hook and gun control:
In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.
— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) June 19, 2015
You might offer a corollary: "In retrospect George Floyd marked the end of the US police control debate. Once America decided killing him was bearable, it was over."
But the truth is, of course, it never decided otherwise.