Lying by police officers is considered a cardinal sin in law enforcement, a “death penalty” offense that most believe should automatically result in a cop’s termination. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer review of internal police documents in Seattle and other Washington agencies reveals that’s hardly the case. In the five years ending last July, just 13 police officers statewide had been terminated and disqualified to serve again as police officers in Washington state because of lying, including the case of a Seattle officer cheating on an exam. The newspaper found more than two dozen other cases in which officers were alleged to have misled supervisors, misstated important facts, or fabricated information in fieldwork, internal investigations, and court cases without being fired.
In several other cases, officers were not even investigated for potentially career-ending dishonesty charges despite allegations or other evidence those officers lied, a review of disciplinary cases statewide found. Prosecutors are required to notify defendants when a cop involved in their case has a sustained record for knowingly lying in an official capacity. That requirement came about because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Brady v. Maryland, and thus officers who lie are known as “Brady cops.” The Post-Intelligencer found that only a few of the state’s largest prosecutor’s offices keep systems to track “Brady cops” in their jurisdictions.