Cops are trained liars, and courts have sanctioned the practice
But if you lie to them you’ll go to jail
Part of the training that LEOs (that acronym can reference law enforcement officers, or, as I call them, legally entitled to oppress) receive is in how to lie and get away with it.
These “legal” lies can include telling a suspect that police have evidence they don’t have, or have obtained confessions they have not obtained, or even posing as a prisoner in a jail cell who is simply “shooting the breeze” with a fellow prisoner with the express purpose of obtaining evidence of a crime.
On the website, policelink.monster.com, an article by John E. Reid, who claims to be “the world leader in providing training programs on investigative interviewing and interrogation techniques, as well as seminars on specialized techniques for the investigation of street crimes,” begins:
During the course of an investigation an investigator often must rely on duplicity and pretense in an effort to develop evidence against the guilty suspect.
Reid goes on to write:
An interesting application… is the permissibility of lying to a suspect about the purpose for an interview. As an example, consider that Frank is suspected of engaging in illegal gambling activity and investigators wish to talk to him about that. For fear that Frank will destroy evidence if told the true purpose for the interview, investigators lie and tell him that they would like to question him about a recent hit and run accident. Once Frank voluntarily presents himself to the interview room he is told the true purpose for the interview and subsequently confesses to illegal gambling activity. Lying to a non-custodial suspect about the purpose for an interview may be considered permissible if the investigator can establish a reasonable purpose for the deception and that the interview was voluntary.
Another police trainer, former prosecutor Val Van Brocklin, has published a four-part training manual at LEO-Trainer.com for LEOs titled, “Deception.” The four parts are subtitled, “Training Police to Lie – Pt. 1,” “Training Police to Lie – Pt. 2,” “A Trial is NOT About the Truth,” and “If Courts Clash on On Police Deception.” Van Brocklin opens her training guide with:
Police lie. It’s part of their job. They lie to suspects and others in hopes of obtaining evidence. These investigative lies cover a wide web of deception…
In United States v. Russell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, “Criminal activity is such that stealth and strategy are necessary weapons in the arsenal of the police officer.” In its ruling in Illinois v. Perkins, SCOTUS referred to police lies as “strategic deception.”
Unfortunately, police apparently don’t know when to turn off their lie creating machine. It’s not just to obtain evidence or extract a confession that police lie. They lie almost as a matter policy to create evidence on innocent suspects or to cover up their crimes and misdeeds and those of their fellow officers and superiors.
Use any search engine and search the phrase, “police lied” and see how many examples appear. For example, there’s the case in Miami of four officers filing 215 false identity theft reports “in order to enrich themselves.” There’s the case of the Arkansas police officer who shot himself and then claimed the shooting happened during a traffic stop. There’s the case of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who arrested a man and charged him with attempting to help two men escape police arrest just because the man did not move away from the arrest scene as instructed. There’s the case of Alabama officers who lied to cover up the abuse of a handcuffed suspect. Links to similar incidents go on for page after page.
This week, the website FreeThoughtProject.com published an interview with a Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff’s deputy who had participated in an LEO message board discussion about planting false evidence in order to arrest people who have committed no crime but merely, as the officers perceived, did not adequately bow to their authority or heed their instructions.
The original post was titled, “Tricks of the trade – let’s exchange!” It included the following message.
I have a method for getting people off the street that should not be there. Mouthy drivers, street lawyers, assholes and just anyone else trying to make my job difficult. Under my floor mat, I keep a small plastic dime baggie with Cocaine in residue. Since it’s just residue, if it is ever found during a search of my car like during an inspection, it’s easy enough to explain. It must have stuck to my foot while walking through San Castle. Anyways, no one’s going to question an empty baggie. The residue is the key because you can fully charge some asshole with possession of cocaine, heroin, or whatever just with the residue. How to get it done? “I asked Mr. DOE for his identification. And he pulled out his wallet, I observed a small plastic baggie fall out of his pocket…” You get the idea. easy, right? Best part is, those baggies can be found lots of places so you can always be ready. Don’t forget to wipe the baggie on the person’s skin after you arrest them because you want their DNA on the bag if they say you planted it or fight it in court.
Other officers on the board shared similar stories. In a follow-up interview with the officer who initiated the message thread, the officer confirmed this and many other similar behaviors, and claimed these behaviors were not only not discouraged by the top brass, but actually encouraged.
The aforementioned police trainer Reid concludes his report instructing police to lie with:
Many of the interrogations conducted at John E. Reid and Associates involve deception through duplicity and pretense to one degree or another. When we start out the interrogation by telling the suspect that all of the evidence indicates that he committed the crime, this is often an exaggeration. We may then compliment the suspect by saying that he appears to be a conscientious and caring individual. This, too, is often a lie. We continue on by expressing understanding and compassion toward the suspect’s criminal behavior and express sympathy toward the unfortunate situation that led to the decision to commit the crime. These false emotions of sympathy and expressions of confidence are often necessary to create an environment where the suspect feels comfortable telling the truth.
Only rarely do we lie about having evidence that implicates the suspect in the crime. In our experience, an investigator who lies about having such evidence risks the suspect either calling the investigator’s bluff, e.g., “Let me see that crime lab report!” or frightening the suspect into asking for an attorney.
And police certainly don’t like it when their suspect “lawyers up.”
Of course, you can’t lie to police with impunity as they can lie to you. You will at least be charged with obstruction of justice. This is a nebulous term that is used as a “catch-all” for when they need to manufacture a crime or tack on additional ones. And lying to federal LEOs is a serious federal crime with substantial penalties.
Bottom line is, you should never talk to police without an attorney present. Even during routine traffic stops, police can and do attempt to manipulate you into confessing to some crime. And you should always video every encounter, even if it’s likely to get you assaulted. And you should never consent to a search of your vehicle.
We have been tracking abusive police for several years. You can read more about some of those abuses in our Power of the State section.