Officers on the Witness Stand

OFFICERS ON THE WITNESS STAND….There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times today that ought to be read by anyone who’s convinced that police testimony in criminal cases is reliably trustworthy and neutral:

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

“We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed,” the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. “I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own.”

….But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges….A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

….In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on videotapes…tapes showed that the demonstrators had followed the instructions of senior officers to walk down those streets, only to have another official order their arrests.

Obviously this isn’t the case with every officer or every arrest. But not to put too fine a point on it, practically every time there’s videotape it turns out that cops have been pretty cavalier with the law. Doesn’t it make you wonder how often that’s the case when videotape isn’t available?