Police Officers as Neutral, Disinterested Witnesses

Jamison KoehlerTrial Advocacy

I like most of the police officers I work with.  Access to body worn camera footage has also given me greater respect for what they do:  I have seen them deal with volatile and potentially dangerous situations with sensitivity and respect.  But this notion of police officers as neutral, disinterested third party observers who testify impartially on behalf of the government is ridiculous. The officers do pick a side – and it is the government’s. 

Q.    Officer, you spoke with me earlier today in the witness room down the hall?

A.    Yes, right outside.

Q.    I was looking for Ms. Smith at the time, right?

A.    Correct.

Q.    And I couldn’t find her, right?

A.    Correct.

Q.    I told you who I was, right?

A.    Yes.

Q.    And I asked if you could verify that the body worn camera we just saw came from you?

A.    You did ask.

Q.    And, in fact, you refused to do so.

PROSECUTOR:    Objection, Your Honor.  Relevance.

THE COURT:    To the extent it goes to any bias.  Overruled.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:    You refused to do so?

A.    Yes.  You didn’t have a subpoena.

Q.    But you did speak with Ms. Smith, the prosecutor in this case?

A.    At some point, yes.

Q.    And that’s because she had a subpoena?

A.    No.

Q.    Is it because she represents the government, because she is the prosecutor?

A.    Correct.

Q.    So you were willing to cooperate with her, work with her?

A.    Yes.

Q.    But you couldn’t work with me.  And that’s because I represent the defendant?

PROSECUTOR.    Objection —

DEFENSE ATTORNEY.  — And the defendant is the bad guy?  He is not on the right team?

PROSECUTOR.    Objection.

THE COURT.    You have made your point, counsel.  

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:    I’ll move on.