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Good Faith: Police Reliance on Computerized Information

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 64 Issue: 11 Dated: (November 1995) Pages: 28-32
G L Gerszewski
Date Published
5 pages
This analysis of the potential expansion of the good- faith exception to the exclusionary rule for errors by police personnel notes that the U.S. Supreme Court's expansion of the exception as it applies to court personnel concludes that similar expansion to police personnel is possible, provided that police managers follow specific guidelines.
Thus, police managers need to establish appropriate safeguards to ensure the accuracy of the database, continually monitor and assess the accuracy of records obtained from other police agencies, and enact policies to verify independently information received as a result of an inquiry by a police officer. The Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. Evans represented a step toward expanding the exception for law enforcement personnel. In the Evans case, police seized evidence incident to an arrest that resulted from an inaccurate computer record. The erroneous computer information resulted from a rare clerical oversight by a court clerk. Based on its previous ruling in United States v. Leon, the Court ruled that the exclusionary rule was designed to deter police misconduct, not mistakes by court employees. The court expressly declined to determine whether evidence should be suppressed if police personnel are responsible for the error. However, the Court will continue to be concerned about the dangers of computer technology. Therefore, police managers must establish appropriate procedures for collecting, maintaining, and using computerized data if the good faith exception is to be applied to police clerical personnel. Photographs and 27 reference notes