Police Officers Blacklisted in Brooklyn By Mallika Singh on November 15, 2019

One of the cornerstones of our criminal system is that the process should have integrity to produce a just result. However our New York criminal defense attorneys who also prosecute civil rights violations know that police officers who fabricate evidence and hide exculpatory evidence cause an uneven playing field for those charged with crimes. Telegraph level of police misconduct has become so rampant that many people who are charged with crimes are playing into a stacked deck and are handicapped in their defense when the prosecutors withhold evidence showing that certain officers are simply not credible and are known to put forth incorrect or even false testimony to get a conviction. 

For decades, prosecutors in New York — and around the country — have kept private files on officers who have disciplinary or credibility problems. But officers in those files still served as witnesses on occasion and the files were often kept secret. In many jurisdictions, prosecutors have declined to release the information they have, citing due process concerns for officers.  However, by releasing the list to the public, the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, has made it nearly impossible for the officers to do ordinary investigations or make arrests in the borough. The move goes beyond what other district attorneys in the city have done to deal with officers with credibility problems. The decision to release the names takes place against the backdrop of a national debate over whether prosecutors should do more to sideline such officers.

• One officer made “inconceivable” lapses during an investigation. She and the others are now barred from testifying by the district attorney. 

• Another officer was charged with taking a 14-year-old boy he had arrested on a minor charge to a Staten Island marsh and stranding him there.

• A third was once suspended from the force for steroid use and had posted on social media that he was watching “Training Day,” a movie about police corruption, to “brush up on proper police procedure.”

The three officers appear on a blacklist made public for the first time this week by the Brooklyn district attorney, Mr. Gonzalez, and he says that he will no longer call them as witnesses because he has determined they are not credible. 

Defense lawyers and police-reform activists have pushed prosecutors to not only keep lists of problematic officers but in some cases to make them public, arguing they are an effective tool for sidelining dishonest or inept police.  District Attorney, Mr. Gonzalez said he was releasing his list of seven officers to reporters in the name of transparency and to improve faith in the criminal justice system. Most of the officers have been either transferred to other boroughs or taken off enforcement jobs, he said. However, the Police Department declined to answer questions about the credibility of officers on the list.

Defense lawyers have long argued that secretive disciplinary proceedings and union rules protecting officers from dismissal raise questions about the ability of police departments to rein in misconduct. As a result, the files prosecutors keep on police misconduct have taken on a growing importance in the national debate over fairness in the criminal justice system. Such files have been around for decades, primarily as a way to track information that prosecutors might be obligated to disclose to defense lawyers. But they are now being embraced as a potential tool for combating police misconduct by activist groups and a growing number of prosecutors. 

In our legal justice system, prosecutors have a tremendous amount of authority and power to press criminal charges against citizens. An oft-repeated line originally attributed to a former New York State chief judge suggests that a district attorney could have a ham sandwich indicted if he wanted. Too often jurors are just likely to assume that police officers are independent witnesses who have no motive to lie and  are presumably tellin the truth, but our New York City malicious prosecution attorneys know better. 

New York and federal law allows victims who have been falsely charged with crimes to sue the officers who brought the charges. In general to hold a police officer liable you have to show that you were subjected to a prosecution without probable cause and the case was resolved in your favor. If you were convicted of a crime just saying you are innocent is not enough, rather you have to have the conviction vacated. Usually the police will point to evidence they relied on for the prosecution to argue that there was proabable cause and they can't be sued, but our New York City civil rights lawyers know that if the police lied, twisted facts, manipulated or fabricated evidence, withheld evidence that undermined their case or relied on witnesses that they knew were not credible, that is enough to establish that there was no probable cause to prosecute you. Our attorneys know the damage that an unwarranted prosecution or conviction based on tainted evidence can cause  and it is outrageous that prosecutors allow police officers they know are not believable or are prone to bend the facts to testify without letting the Court, the defendant and especially the jury, know that the police officer has credibility problems. People should not be put in jail based on testimony that is questionable. If you were subjected to a baseless prosecution, call our New York City and Westchester malicious prosecution attorneys. 

 

 

 

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