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Police Officer Truthfulness and the Brady Decision

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 70 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 92,95,97,99,100,101
Jeff Noble
Date Published
October 2003
6 pages
This article discusses the 1963 Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland and how this affects police work.
The Brady decision ruled that the defense has the right to examine all evidence that may be of an exculpatory nature. The prosecution will not only release evidence that the defendant might be guilty of a crime but also release all evidence that might show that the defendant is innocent as well. Recent Supreme Court decisions have enforced Brady to include evidence maintained in a police officer’s personnel files. Under Brady, evidence affecting the credibility of the police officer as a witness may be exculpatory evidence and should be given to the defense during discovery. Evidence that the officer has had in his personnel file a sustained finding of untruthfulness is clearly exculpatory to the defense. Law enforcement executives have responded to these judicial decisions by imposing strict rules, such as a “No Lies” proclamation. Lying is a subset of the larger category of deception, and deception is undertaken when one intends to dupe others by communicating messages meant to mislead and meant to make the recipients believe what the agent either knows or believes to be untrue. Deception encompasses not only spoken and written statements but any conduct that conveys a message to the listener. Historically, not all intentionally deceptive conduct in social interactions has been considered improper. Acknowledging that some deceptive conduct is acceptable helps to define deceptive misconduct. In the performance of their duties, police officers frequently engage in a significant amount of deceptive conduct that is essential to public safety. Although lies justified by necessity, lies told in jest, and white lies may be acceptable forms of deception in law enforcement, malicious lies are the true evil of officer misconduct. Intentional deceptive conduct can include deceptive action in a formal setting, failure to bring forward information, or creation of false evidence. The No Lies rule causes managers to deem that Brady has taken their discretion away on the cases that fall outside the justified or excusable categories.