There’s a big scandal that’s been going on in San Francisco, regarding some drug busts in the Henry Hotel, and something surprising that happened. Apparently cops have been lying in court regarding how those busts went down.
That, of course, is not the surprising thing. It’s the fact that they got caught on video.
What this scandal is making clear in San Francisco is not that some cops sometimes lie, and in court while under oath, but rather that this is a regular part of doing business for many, if not most, narcotics cops.
Peter Keane had an outstanding OpEd in the San Francisco Gate this week about this: Why cops lie
Count this as one more casualty of the “war on drugs.” It is simply additional collateral damage from using the American criminal justice system as the battlefield of that war. […]
Why do police, whom we trust as role models of legal conduct, show contempt for the law by systematically perjuring themselves?
The first reason is because they get away with it. They know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer. Often in search hearings, it is embarrassingly clear to everyone – judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, even spectators – that the officer is lying under oath. Yet nothing is done about it. […]
Another reason is the nature of most drug cases and the likely type of person involved. Usually police illegally enter a home, search it and find drugs. Like the recent scandal in San Francisco concerning the Henry Hotel residents, the defendant is poor, uneducated, frequently a minority, with a criminal record, and he does have drugs. Police know that no one cares about these people.
But the main reason is that the job of these cops is chasing drugs. Their professional advancement depends on nabbing dopers. The dominant culture they grew up with is popular mythology glorifying rogue cops like Popeye Doyle from the 1975 film “The French Connection.”
This is a culture that goes all the way to the top in our corrupt drug war.
When I wrote about Michele Leonhart back in 2003 (she has since advanced to Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration), I noted that she seemed oddly surprised that lying on the stand in the service of the drug war was even… wrong.
The most startling statement in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of [super snitch] Andrew Chambers was from Michele Leonhart:
â€œThe only criticism (of Chambers) Iâ€™ve ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand.â€
She continued by saying that once prosecutors check him out, theyâ€™ll agree with his admirers in DEA that heâ€™s â€œan outstanding testifier.â€
This corruption creates far-reaching damage to the relationship between law enforcement and our communities. Yet another dangerous by-product of this ill-conceived and destructive war.