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Courtroom Testimony

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 165-168
John DePresca
Date Published
October 2003
4 pages
This article provides detailed instructions on how a police officer should dress and respond to questions on the witness stand.
The author notes that all of the people in the courtroom, including the jury will be studying the officer's/witness' clothes, personal appearance, speech, demeanor, and presentation, along with a number of subtle mannerisms such as hand gestures, eye contact, and body language. Regarding clothing worn for the testimony, always follow departmental policy; or in the absence of a policy, follow the directions of the prosecutor. In any case, do not wear clothes that distract the jury from the testimony. The testimony, whether in response to the prosecutor or the defense attorney, should only consist of precise answers to the questions presented. Lengthy explanations of an answer should be avoided. The goal of an officer's testimony is to tell the truth about personal actions and observations in an investigation, without regard to whether it favors the prosecution or the defense. When being questioned by the defense, various tactics may be used by the attorney to demean, anger, or undermine the integrity of the officer. The officer/witness must remain calm and professional throughout the testimony, regardless of the tactics used by the defense attorney. Testimony should be presented without police jargon and with words that can be understood by the average person.