A federal judge has told New York City to prepare for a court hearing on the prevalence of lying by police officers and whether the police department has done too little to discipline officers who testify falsely, the New York Times reports. For years, federal judges have been issuing rulings casting doubt on the credibility of some police testimony. Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn may signal a broader judicial inquiry into police perjury. Weinstein cited a number of newspaper articles in recent years about accusations of false statements and perjury by the police. He suggested that giving a jury the question of whether the department has permitted widespread police perjury could prompt important reforms. “It may indicate the need for more careful tracking of individual police officer’s litigation history and a more effective discipline policy to avoid repeated lying by a number of officers,” he said.
The decision came in a routine case brought by a bodega cashier, Hector Cordero, who was charged with drug dealing in 2004 on slight evidence. Plainclothes officers claimed to have seen a man walk out of the bodega where Cordero worked and sell two bags of drugs to a man waiting outside. Officers accused Cordero, but no drugs were found on him and the charges were dropped. Cordero accused officers of arresting him because they wanted to make the overtime pay that ensued from an arrest near the end of their shift. Weinstein said that if Cordero proved his case, he would hold a second proceeding to examine the prevalence of police lying and whether false arrests were being carried out to generate overtime. That hearing would focus on whether the police department has a policy of not taking “reasonable steps to control lying by police officers.”