When Lynne Abraham was Philadelphia’s district attorney, her office maintained a list of city police officers banned from testifying in court because their credibility had been tainted, according to a police arbitration report quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Internal Affairs unit had investigated the conduct of at least some of those officers, devaluing them as witnesses. In certain instances when they were not allowed to testify, cases were dismissed.
The existence of such a list has been a closely guarded secret in court and police circles. It was not known whether District Attorney Seth Williams, who took over from Abraham in January, maintains such a list. Abraham confirmed that, under her direct supervision, prosecutors had not allowed officers deemed untrustworthy to testify. She said that she did not know of the existence of a list and that the policy had applied to a “relatively small number of officers.” She said, “It’s not about numbers. It’s about being a thoughtful and honorable prosecutor who’s not interested in numbers, just in justice.” Her comments came in response to a 24-page report, publicly released last week but issued in 2006, that details how the district attorney barred two officers from testifying about arrests they had made.