7 Reasons Why Dirty Cops Always Get Away With Police Misconduct
Early last December, the LA Times revealed leaked information that showed that dozens of officers were hired to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just a few years ago, despite having a history of previous misconduct. The Sheriff’s Department later announced that it was to initiate an investigation to determine who leaked this private information to the press. The LA Times revealed that of the 280 LA County deputies hired in 2010, nearly 100 were given California law enforcement jobs despite having some criminal history and prior instances of police misconduct.
In order to understand the seriousness of the injustice of these deputy hires, it is important to understand some of the elements that define police misconduct.
What is police misconduct?
Police misconduct is any act taken by an officer of the law that is unethical, against established law enforcement guidelines, unconstitutional, or criminal in nature. It does not include any minor instances of disregard for rules such as tardiness or an unkempt uniform. Police misconduct occurs when an officer acts in a way that conflicts with his or her official duties to protect and serve citizens and justly enforce the law.1
Types of police misconduct may include false accusations, false confession, falsifying of evidence, false imprisonment, intimidation, police brutality, corruption, racial profiling or discrimination, abuse of surveillance, off-duty misconduct, abuse of power, lying under oath, influence of drugs and alcohol while on duty, and any other act that is in violation of the law or in violation of police procedural policies.
A History of Corruption
It is no secret that police misconduct and corruption has occurred within the LA police force for many years. In fact, the LAPD as an organization has had a history of scandal. In the 1990’s the LAPD underwent a massive lawsuit in regards to the “Rampart scandal”. During the investigation of this scandal, more than 70 officers involved in an anti-gang unit were investigated for illegal police misconduct including unprovoked shootings and beatings, framing suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, and perjury. Less than half of those officers investigated were actually convicted of illegal misconduct, while the rest were fired, suspended or forced to resign. This scandal made history as one of the largest cases of police misconduct in US history.2
Background of Misconduct Found in Recent Hires
It appears that corruption within California law enforcement agencies still exists today. After the recent information regarding officer misconduct within the LA County Sheriff’s Department was revealed by the LA Times last month, investigators found that each of the 100 officers had one or more of the following instances of misconduct reported against them, either on the job or off-duty, prior to being hired to the LA County Sherriff’s Dept. in 2010. The instances of deputy misconduct reported by the LA Times include:
- Unprovoked firing of weapons;
- Sex at work;
- Soliciting prostitutes;
- Making false statements or testimonies ;
- Falsifying police records;
- Cheating on polygraph tests;
- Drunk driving;
- Domestic violence; OR
- Verbally and physically abusing jail or prison inmates.
Of course, these instances only include those that were reported. There is little doubt that many other cases of misconduct often go unreported. Naturally, many of the officers involved in these types of misconduct were charged but not convicted of these crimes.
Many of the officers with histories of reported misconduct also had criminal backgrounds prior to joining the police force. In fact, according to the LA Times article, two of the officers had even admitted to having previous sexual relationships with children and/or minors prior to joining law enforcement3. It seems a bit ironic that those who admitted to such serious crimes were hired to send others to prison. In fact, it is alarming that officers with criminal histories are granted such power and freedom while citizens convicted of these crimes are forced to live their lives under strict regulation and scrutiny.
Why Do Dirty Cops Always Seem to Get Away With Misconduct?
As you can see by the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department’s lackadaisical attitude toward hiring officers, these dirty cops are almost completely shielded from exposure. As if police officers don’t already get away with enough, California laws further protect the privacy of these officers’ history.
There are several hurdles that a defendant must overcome in order to show proof that he or she has fallen victim to police misconduct. When a defendant claims to have been subject to misconduct, he or she must petition for a Pitchess motion – a request to gain access to the law enforcement officer’s personnel information (Pitchess v. Superior Court). The information provided will include any misconduct reported against the officer. Once the defendant obtains this information, the defendant will address it during discovery – the legal process by which each side in a criminal prosecution acquires evidence that the other intends to introduce in court4.
However, this seemingly simple process has a catch. California law and other factors provide several limitations on accessing police information. Limitations on gaining access to a police officer’s background information include all of the following:
- The defendant must first show “good cause” pursuant to Evidence Code 1043(b)(1)5;
- The officer’s records are discussed privately, away from the presence of the defense and the jury pursuant to Evidence Code 9156;
- Discovery only allows disclosure of the names and addresses of any complainants that previously reported misconduct against the officer. The defendant is left with the burden of investigating the details of each report of misconduct;
- If the misconduct occurred more than five years prior, it is completely protected from discovery pursuant to Evidence Code 1045(b)(1);
- Any discovery of police misconduct is subject to a protective order which prohibits lawyers from sharing their findings with other attorneys or other sources, pursuant to Evidence Code 1045(e)7. This means that lawyers with cases involving the same officer cannot share the findings of their investigations with one another;
- No similar laws towards defendants with criminal histories exist. This means that the prosecutor can use the defendant’s criminal history against him. Using the officer’s criminal history is restricted, giving the officer a significant advantage in your case; AND
- California law enforcement agencies, namely the LA Sherriff’s Dept., clearly do not offer safeguards from hiring officers with histories of misconduct.
What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of Police Misconduct in California?
If you have been charged with a crime as a result of illegal police misconduct such as false testimony, falsified evidence or police brutality, you should hire an attorney immediately. You should hire a reputable and knowledgeable attorney to handle your case who has experience in handling cases of police misconduct. An experienced and established attorney can have considerable leverage in the court room by preparing and arguing a powerful Pitchess motion.
Why Hire Wallin and Klarich?
Our criminal defense attorneys at Wallin and Klarich have over 40 years of experience successfully defending persons accused of crimes where illegal police misconduct has taken place. Our attorneys will work together to determine how we can get you the best results possible in your case. At Wallin and Klarich, we understand that fighting a police misconduct case can be an uphill battle for you. We are here to help.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is no courtroom in southern California that our attorneys are unfamiliar with. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime as a result of police misconduct, call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL (877-466-5245). Wallin and Klarich offers the best legal advice and court representation in California. For questions more specific to your case, give us a call or fill out our online contact form for immediate assistance. We will get through this together.
All of the information provided above was retrieved from the following sources:
1. Police misconduct definition – http://www.policemisconduct.net/introduction-to-police-misconduct-part-1/↩
2. Rampart Scandal – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/lapd/scandal/cron.html↩
3. Background of misconduct in 2010 LAPD hires – http://graphics.latimes.com/behind-the-badge/↩
4. Pitchess motion – http://www.dailyjournal.com/cle.cfm?show=CLEDisplayArticle&qVersionID=321&eid=910449&evid=1/↩
5. Evidence Code 1043(b)(1) – http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=evid&group=01001-02000&file=1040-1047/↩
6. Evidence Code 915 – http://law.onecle.com/california/evidence/915.html/↩
7. Evidence Code 1045 – http://law.onecle.com/california/evidence/1045.html/↩