Your front-page article “Police falsehoods bring little discipline” (Behind the Shield, Jan. 3) asks why aren’t there serious consequences more often when Boston police officers lie on reports or in court. Attorney Rosemary Scapicchio provided an answer to the question when she said, “It’s easier to believe the defendant did it . . . than to say the cops lied.”
District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s creation of a “Law Enforcement Automatic Discovery” database is long overdue in Suffolk County and provides one mechanism to address the practice of police officers “testilying.”
Deciding whether a police officer has lied is one of the most difficult responsibilities of judges, prosecutors, and police supervisors. Until more judges and police supervisors also acknowledge the reality of some officers lying in court, not much is likely to change.
The writer is a retired Boston Municipal Court judge.
It is true that the absence of discipline can influence a cop’s decision to lie. But lack of accountability is just one influence among many, and to leave the analysis there is superficial. Another question is why lying seemed like a good idea in the first place. What cultural and institutional pressures led cops to zig when they should have zagged? What did they believe would be the consequences of not lying? That’s a systemic problem that needs attention.
Yes, there’s an absence of sanctions, but there’s a structure of inducements too.
The writer is a defense attorney and author.