Lying is an integral part of police work

Radley Balko points out another video of the New York Police Department assaulting people and then charging them with crimes, lying in their depositions. Not small discrepancies, understandable errors of recollection, but plain lies boldly contradicting the video footage. What the footage shows is cops assaulting people.

You can thank us "activist bikers" later for being in the vanguard of resistance to the police state. (Yes, I'm one of these types, though not in New York.) It's not often people expose the ugly center of police work.

One of my inner circle was once charged with a crime, and at the deposition that we attended we heard the officer testify under oath to things which we knew to be plainly false. We prodded the lawyer to object, and he said it wasn't even worth the time: police lie all the time, and they're going to be believed in court.

Well, that lying bastard was believed in court. I'm sure he was right back on the street, harassing people and lying about it later.

This happens all the time. This happens everywhere.

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Why they believe the lies

Normally we would expect that over time, people will adjust their beliefs and expectations to most accurately reflect a person's track record. For example, if police are regularly caught lying, then one might normally expect others to catch on and to stop believing the police, especially with repeated exposure and therefore ample opportunity to recognize the police for the liars that they are.

But humans are not disinterested truth-seekers. They are self-interested, and so we can with some confidence predict that, over time, people will figure out what it is in their own best interest and do it.

A judge, particularly a judge employed by the state and therefore shielded from the consequences of his rulings, has a limited interest in judging correctly. Anarcho-capitalists might imagine that a private court system would give judges strong incentives to judge correctly, but absent competition between courts, what incentives do judges really face?

One might argue that judges should not be subject to incentives at all, because this would interest them in the outcome of the trial, and a judge must be disinterested. I do believe that there is a popular idea out there floating around that in order for someone to be properly disinterested he must truly be unaffected by the outcome of the trial. However, I think this is a mistake, because someone truly unaffected by the outcome has scant incentive to judge correctly. In our haste to protect against biased judges, we may inadvertently be protecting ourselves against judges motivated to do a good job.

In the real world judges are of course not free of incentives. They work in an environment that reacts and their actions do have personal consequences. In particular, while judges will probably never see defendants again and in any case there is little that most defendants can do to make the judges' lives either better or worse, judges have to deal with the police on a daily basis. If you have to deal with someone on a daily basis, aren't you going to do what you can to maintain good relations? That's what I do. We can expect judges to do the same. Independently of whether policemen lie or not, judges have an incentive to act as if they believe them, in order to maintain good relations with the police department. This is in contrast to the defendant, who the judge has little reason to want to maintain good relations with.

Anyway, that's my explanation.

[added:]

The police, meanwhile, lie because the judges let them get away with it.

But we might ask: why bother lying? If the judge is in your corner, why not say, "yeah, I beat him up but I'm a cop so send him to jail for the crime of being beaten up by me?" It may sound like a silly question because it seems so obvious that that would not work, but we can get somewhere by directly answering it.

The cop and the judge collaborate in covering up the truth with lies because it benefits them and because they have the power to do so. But, evidently, they don't have, or at least don't believe they have, the power to act openly, without a coverup. So there is a limit on their power. Like the thief in the night, they feel it necessary to hide what they are doing. Shining the light of day on their activities would - they apparently believe - undo them.

This suggests that public surveillance of government activities might go some distance toward mitigating the corruption. Balko's investigative reporting is an obvious case in point.

Why does the public at large

Why does the public at large tend to trust police? The public does not tend to trust lawyers, they do not tend to trust politicians, these classes are often mocked for their reputations as liars. Why not police? They seem immune. In fact, I might even go so far as to say they are put on a pedestal in spite of all the stories of corruption.

What is going on here? Is it just too many people raised on cop shows?

Lots of reasons

There's a lot to be said, e.g.,

1) NYC is close to a worst case scenario (small towns likely have less swaggering cops),

2) not everyone overtly trusts cops,

3) those who trust them on the surface may reveal distrust with simple probing,

4) respect for cops is a way of signaling respect for law and people want to be seen as law-abiding,

5) excessive respect for (deference to) cops may be a way of appeasing them and therefore a sign of fear and therefore a sign of distrust (this can shade into full-blown Stockholm syndrome),

6) as long as cops leave the vast majority of people mostly alone then the vast majority has little basis on which to form an accurate impression of their depravity,

7) people who believe that government is necessary believe that cops are necessary and, believing this, believe that cops are heroes who prevent civilization from collapsing (i.e. there can be some seepage between our ideas about the task a person does and his personal virtues - if he saves the world, then he must be a really great person rather than a scumbag).

Also, I think people group

Also, I think people group cops with firefighters and military, and justify their absurd adulation on the grounds that these people risk their lives in order to save ours. Whereas lawyers and politicians generally don't.

But, then, we don't grant the same respect to coal miners and high-rise construction crews - even though the jobs are just as dangerous, they don't have the "public service" bullshit attached to them.

Cops vs.Citizens

Why do judges beleive the cops instead of citizens? It is unfortunately true that most citizens that are arrested are even bigger liars than the cops.

Dave

IM A POLICE OFFICER WHO LIES AND FOR GOOD REASON

IM A BENT COPPER, YES I PROUDLY ADMIT IT AND I GET AWAY WITH AND WHATS MORE THERES NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT, HA HA HA HA HA !!!!!!

I PLANT DRUGS ON PEOPLE AND GET THEM LOCKED UP, I KNOW THEYRE INNOCENT, BUT I JUST GET OFF ON THE BUZZ OF IT. MANY OF THE PEOPLE I ARREST ARE ONLY NIIGERS, PAKIS, PISSHEADS AND JUNKIES, WHO ARE A BLOODY NUISANCE AND DESERVE TO BE FITTED UP. IVE LIED ON OATH ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS, WHATS MORE, YOU CAN REPORT ME TO THE APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES IF YOU WANT, IM NOT BOTHERED, THEY WONT BELIEVE YOU OR DO ANYTHING, MY NAMES PC GLENDON AND I WORK AT CHRISTCHURCH POLICE STATION IN DORSET GREAT BRITAIN, GO ON TRY AND REPORT ME, SEE IF IT WORKS, HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, IM A COPPER, YOURE NOT, HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE

i was wrongfully impounded by

i was wrongfully impounded by Washington State Patrol trooper Dustin Drout Badge# 433. Today 01/14/11 i had court to get impound fee back and he came out and lied Under Oath about my distance from DNR Gate which i hunt. i was at least 17 yards(i checked exactly after court) from gate out of way BUT he, the dirt bag that he is said i was less then 15ft from it.
i heard about Pigs lying under oath BUT i finally experienced it personally.