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Courtroom Coliseum

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 25 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 74,76-77,78
Jorge Gil-Blanco
Date Published
October 2001
4 pages
This article suggests ways in which police officers can become more effective in the courtroom as expert witnesses.
Whenever a police officer is on the witness stand, he or she is the subject of inquisition by the defense attorney. Not only is the officer expected to know all the aspects of the case at issue, but is also expected to know the applicable law and be above reproach. The officer is "on stage" and is expected to give vital and important information to the "audience." The testimony given by the officer is vital to a case and will not be available from other professional sources. This means the officer must be prepared with ongoing training. A trained officer will know to be prepared for anything the defense attorney is likely to ask as a means of undermining the officer's contribution to the prosecutor's goal of obtaining a conviction. To be prepared, the officer must read any prior deposition transcripts (civil cases) or investigation reports (criminal cases). For civil cases, it is important for the officer to be prepared for depositions, since what is said in a deposition may be used to impeach testimony at the jury trial. Officers must be trained to be aware of testimony pitfalls by learning about the trial techniques defense attorneys use to counter police testimony. Further, prepared officers are able to make their points as if they were instructors in a classroom, making sure the students understand the testimony. Prepared officers are also aware of the importance of body language while testifying, which includes proper eye contact and posture. In addition, the use of technology in the testimony can help demonstrate, explain, and summarize information.