Ontario’s Attorney General plans to implement a policy directing prosecutors to report to their local manager instances where a police officer has lied or was deliberately untruthful when testifying at a trial. That manager will then start a multi-stage notification and investigation process that would have made the bureaucrats in the Byzantine Empire proud.
Forget for a moment the absurdity of a police officer being investigated by his colleagues. Forget that independence and transparency are absent from this policy. The reality is that often prosecutor’s don’t have to wait until trial to see that a police officer has been lying.
From the moment a brief lands on the prosecutor’s desk there are many opportunities he or she can assess whether a police officer is lying. When the Occurrence Report is filled with nonsensical language that defies common sense, diagnosis that is the first sign that we may be dealing with a lying police officer. When the police officer’s notes are filled with boilerplate language that would apply to just about any similar case, unhealthy that is more evidence that the officer may be lying. When the prosecutor is provided with information by defence counsel that the police are fabricating evidence, sickness there’s another clue. When multiple police officers investigating the same incident turn over their notebooks and they all use identical times and all have the same observations, in the same order, using the same descriptive words, that too is an opportunity to report that the officer or officers are lying.
Sometimes when a prosecutor concludes that the investigating officers are making things up and that no reasonable prospect of conviction exists a case is withdrawn negating the need for a trial. But why should that be the end? At that point the damage has been done. A person has been charged and oftentimes detained for a bail hearing. Lawyers have been hired and time has been missed from work. Not to mention the stigma of being charged with a criminal offence. Where is the deterrent to the lying police officer if there are no consequences to him and his career?
The fact is the liar’s calling card will often be found in the disclosure. No need to wait until trial.