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Edward R. La Rue
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Why police lie

Because they can get away with it. In the days before cellphones with video capability, during most citizen-officer interactions, if there was any dispute over what transpired between the officer and the individual they stopped, in the vast majority of cases, would be resolved in favor of the officer's version of events.

After all, the officer was a licensed law enforcement officer, empowered with great authority by the state to "serve and protect." On the other side, some individual, who was likely lying to protect themselves from a criminal charge. Judges found it easy to side with the police.

During the last ten years, that façade of police credibility and trustworthiness has begun to erode. A traffic stop this month from North Carolina is a clear example of police overreach that could have turned out badly for the motorist had he not recorded the interaction.

The man had just picked up a passenger for Uber. When he was stopped, he used his phone to record video of the interaction with the officer. The officer instructed the man to stop recording, stating there was "new law" that forbid the practice and threatened him with jail. Unfortunately for the officer, the man was a criminal defense attorney and he knew that was untrue.

The officer ordered the man out of the car. The driver refused to get out and refused to consent to a search. The officer called a K-9 unit and eventually searched the vehicle over the man's protests. The search turned up nothing and the man and his passenger were allowed to proceed on their way.

Of course, there was no "new law" and the officer lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search the man or the vehicle. That search was unconstitutional. This was the very definition of the "unreasonable searches" that the Fourth amendment guards against.

The police, however, have learned that they can intimidate or bully most individuals into consenting to a search, and if contraband is found, the individual cannot claim a Fourth Amendment violation, because they consented to the search.

The officer's brazen lie was likely based on the fact that during most traffic stops, he could have gotten away with it, as the person likely would not have been a criminal defense attorney and may not have had the nerve to record the video.

 

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Edward R. La Rue
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