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PART IV

15

In "Bad Blood: The Moral Stigmatization of Paid Plasma Donors," Martin


Kretzmann outlines the way that commercial blood plasma centers label the clients
who sell them plasmaas deviant. Although donating blood and other servicesmay
be considered altruistic, selling it renders the client discreditable, and this definition is forced onto donors by the policies and practices of the center's administra-

"Fluffing Up the Evidence

tive and medical staff. Kretzmann compares the treatment of paid and unpaid
donors, the assumptionsimplicitly made about their status and the worth of their
blood, and the implications this has for the identity labelsthat clients assume.
The judicial labeling process is the focus of Lisa Frohmann's "Discrediting
Victims' Allegations of Sexual Assault: Prosecutorial Accounts of Case Rejections." Frohmann discussesthe organizationaldynamics of the prosecutor's office,
focusing on the ways in which rape cases and rape victims are "typified," with
those displaying discrepant (that is, individualized) features discredited. Complainants are made to feel deviant and devalued if their cases do not mold to the
norm, and their casesare dropped from further legal pursuit. This caseis particularly interesting because it is the rape victims, not the offenders, who are made to
feel disvalued by institutional processingassumptionsand procedures.
Therefore, individuals operating within institutional frameworks are likely to
be affected by the organizational dynamics shaping these frameworks. They are
either spurred to deviance or labeled as deviant by their bureaucratic mechanisms.

and Covering Your Ass"


On Police Lying
TOM BARKER AND DAVID CARTER

cer's working enviromnent. At fIrst blush, one's reaction to this statement


lying
are an should
integralnot
partlie.ofIfthe
offimightand
be other
rather deceptive
forthright.practices
Police officers
youpolice
can't trust
your local police who can you trust. However, as with most issues the matter
is not that simple.
We are all aware that police officers create false identities for undercover
operations. We know that they make false promises to hostage takers and kidnappers. We also know officers will strain the truth in order to spare the feelings of a rrime victim and his/her loved ones. Police officers are trained to lie
and be deceptive in these law enforcement practices. They are also trained to
use techniques of interrogation which require deception and even outright
lying. Police officers learn much of this in the police academy. Where they are
also warned about the impropriety of perjury and the need to record all incidents fully and accurately in all official reports. The recruit learns that all rules
and regulations must be obeyed. He/she learns of the danger oflying to internal affairs or a supervisor. The recruit is told to be truthful in his dealings with
the noncriminal element of the public in that mutual trust is an important element in police community relations. Once the recruit leaves the academyand in some departments where officers work in the fIeld before attending
rookie school-the officer soon learns from his/her peers that police lying is
the norm under certain circumstances.
Our purpose is to discuss the patterns of lying which might occur in a po'lice organization, the circumstances under which they occur, and the possible
consequences of police lying.

From "'Fluffing Up the Evidence

and Covering

Your Ass': Some Conceptual

Notes

on Police Lying," Tom Barker and David Carter, Deviant Behavior, V. 11, No.1,

Taylor & Francis. Inc., Washington, D.C., pp. 61-73, 1990. Reprinted with permission.
All rights reserved.

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PART IV

ORGANIZATIONAL/INSTITUTIONAL

TAXONOMY

OF POLICE

DEVIANCE

LIES

Accepted Lying

Certain forms of police lying and/ or deception are an accepted part of police
officers' working environment. The lies told iu this category are accepted by
the police organization because they fulfill a defined police purpose. Administrators and individual police officers believe that certain lies are necessary to
control crime and "arrest the guilty." In these instances, the organization will
freely admit the intent to lie and define the acts as legitimate policing strategies. On face value, most would agree with the police that lies in this category
are acceptable and necessary. However, a troubling and difficult question is "to
what extent, if at all is it proper for law enforcement officials to employ trickery and deceit as part of their law enforcement practices" (Skolnick, 1982,
italics added)? As we shall see, the answer to this question is not so easy. Acceptable lies may be very functional for the police but are they always proper,
moral, ethical, and legal?
The most readily apparent patterns of "accepted" police lying are the deceptive practices that law enforcement officers believe are necessary to perform undercover operations or detect other forms of secret and consensual
crimes. Police officers engaged in these activities must not only conceal their
true identity but they must talk, act, and dress out of character, fabricating all
kinds of stories in order to perform these duties. One could hardly imagine
that FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone could have operated for six years in the
Mafia without the substantial number oflies he had to tell (Pistone, 1987).
However, the overwhelming majority of undercover operations are not as
glamorous nor as dangerous as working six years with the Mafia or other organized crime groups. The most common police undercover operations occur
in routine vice operations dealing with prostitution, bootlegging, gambling,
narcotics, bribery of public officials (e.g. ABSCAM, MILAB, BRILAB), and
spng operations.
These deceptive practices in undercover operations are not only acceptable
to the law enforcement community but considered necessary for undercover
operations to be effective. Nevertheless, such activities are not without problems. The "Dirty Harry" problem in police work raises the question as to
what extent morally good police practices warrant or justify ethically, politically,or legally suspect means to achieve law enforcement objectives (Klockars,
1980). Marx also raises the issue that many of the tactics used by law enforcement officers in such recent undercover operations as ABSCAM, MILAB,
and BRILAB, police run fencing or sting operations and anti-crime decoy
squads may have lost sight of "the profound difference between carrying out
an investigation to determine if a suspect is, in fact, breaking the law, and carrying it out to determine if an individual can be induced to break the law"
(Marx, 1985: 106). One Congressman involved in the ABSCAM case refused
the first offer of a cash bribe to only later accept the money after federal agents,
concluding that he was an alcoholic, gave him liquor (Marx, 1985: 104).

"FLUFFING

UP THE EVIDENCE AND

COVERING

YOUR ASS"

163

Encouraging the commission of a crime may be a legally accepted police


practice when the officer acts as a willing victim or his/her actions facilitate
the commission of a crime which was going to be committed in the first place.
However, it is possible for "encouragement" to lead the suspect to raise the
defense of entrapment. According to Black's Law Dictionary entrapment is "the
act of officers or agents of the government in inducing a person to commit a
crime not contemplated by him, for the purpose of instituting a criminal prosecution against him" (277). For the defense of entrapment to prevail the defendant must show that the officer or his/her agent has gone beyond providing
the encouragement and opportunity for the commission of a crime and
through trickery, fraud, or other deception has induced the suspect to commit
a crime. This defense is raised far more times than it is successful because the
current legal criterion to determine entrapment is what is known as the subjective test.
In the subjective test the predisposition of the offender rather than the objective methods of the police is the key factor in determining entrapment
(Skolnick, 1982; Marx, 1985; Stitt and James, 1985). This makes it extremely
difficult for a defendant with a criminal record to claim that he/she would not
have committed the crime except for the actions of the officer. The "objective test" of entrapment raised by a minority of the Supreme Court has focused on the nature of the police conduct rather than the predisposition of the
offender (Stitt and James, 1985). For example, the objective test probably
would examine whether the production of crack by a police organization to
use in undercover drug arrests is proper and legal....
Police administrators are well aware of the possibility that the entire organization may be labeled deviant because of the deviant acts of its members. The "rotten apple theory" of police corruption has often been used as
an impression management technique by police administrators who are
aware of this possibility (Barker, 1977). It is easier to explain police deviance
as a result of individual aberrations than admit the possibility of systemic
problems and invite public scrutiny. However, candor and public scrutiny
may be the best way to insure that corruption and other forms of police deviance do not occur or continue in an organization (see Cooper and Belair,
1978).
Thus, accepted lies are those which the organization views as having a viable role in police operations. The criteria for the lie to be accepted is:
It must be in furtherance of a legitimate organizational purpose.
There must be a clear relationship between the need to deceive and the
accomplishment of an organizational purpose.
The nature of the deception must be one wherein officers and the management structure acknowledge that deception will better serve the public
interest than the truth.
The ethical standing of the deception and the issue of law appear to be collateral concerns.

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ORGANIZATIONAL/INSTITUTIONAL

Tolerated

DEVIANCE

Lying

A second category of police lies are those which are recognized as "lies" by
the police organization but are tolerated as "necessary evils." Police administrators will admit to deception or "not exactly telling the whole truth" when
confronted with the facts. These types of situational or "white" lies are truly
in the gray area of propriety and the police can provide logical rationales for
their use. When viewed from an ethical standpoint they may be "wrong" but
from the police perspective they are necessary (i.e., tolerated) to achieve organizational objectives or deal with what Goldstein has termed the basic problems of police work (Goldstein, 1977: 9).
The basic problems of police work arise from the mythology surrounding
police work; e.g., statutes usually require and the public expects the police to
enforce all the laws all the time, the public holds the police responsible for
preventing crime and apprehending all criminals, the public views the police
as being capable of handling all emergencies, etc. (Goldstein, ~977). Most police administrators will not publicly admit that they do not have the resources,
the training, or the authority to do some of the duties that the pubic expects.
In fact, many police administrators and police officers lacking the education
and insight into police work would be hard pressed to explain police work,
particularly discretionary decision making to outside groups. They therefore
resort to lies and deception to support police practices.
Police administrators often deny that their departments practice anything
less than full enforcement of all laws rather than attempt to explain the basis
for police discretionary decisions and selective enforcement. We continually
attempt to deal with social problems through the use of criminal sanctions and
law enforcement personnel. Mandatory sentencing for all offenders committing certain felony and misdemeanor
offenses is often seen as a panacea for
these offenses. For example, in recent years many politically active groups such
as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (M.A.D.D.) have pressured legislators for
stronger laws with mandatory enforcement in drunk driving cases. However,
their sentiment in cases not involving accidents may not be shared by the general public (Formby and Smykla, 1984) or the police. One can only speculate
as to the number of discretionary decisions still being made by police officers
in DUI offenses in departments where full enforcement is the official policy.
One of the authors learned of an individual who had two DUI offenses reduced and asked a police supervisor about it.
Barker: The chief said that all DUI suspects are charged and those over the
legal blood alcohol level never have the charge reduced. In fact, he said
this at a M.A.D.D. meeting. Yet, I heard that (--)
had two DUI
offenses reduced.
Supervisor: That is true, Tom. However, (--)
is helping us with some
drug cases. M.A.D.D. may not understand but they do not have to make
drug busts.

"FLUFFING

UP THE EVIDENCE

AND COVERING

YOUR ASS"

165

The point of note is that the police, in response to political pressure, make a
policy on DUI cases and vow that the policy will be followed. However, in
this case, that vow was not true. The police made a discretionary judgement
that the assistance of the DUI offender in drug investigations was of greater
importance than a DUI prosecution.
Thus, this policy deviation was tantamount to a lie to the M.A.D.D. membership-a
lie tolerated by the police
department.
The public also expects the police to handle any disorderly or emergency
situations. The American public believes that one of the methods for handling
any problem is "calling the cops" (Bittner, 1972). However, in many of these
order maintenance situations the police do not have the authority, resources,
or training to deal with the problem. They often face a situation "where something must be done now" yet an arrest is not legally possible or would be more
disruptive. The officer is forced to reach into a bag of tricks for a method of
dealing with the crisis. Lying to the suspects or the complainants is often that
method. For example, ... in domestic disturbances police officers face volatile
situations where the necessary conditions for an arrest often are not present.
Frequently there is a misdemeanor where the officer does not have a warrant,
an offense has not been committed in his/her presence, and the incident occurred in a private residence. However, the officer may feel that something
must be done. Consequently, the officer may lie and threaten to arrest one or
both combatants, or take one of the parties out to the street or the patrol car
to discuss the incident and arrest them for disorderly conduct or public intoxication when they reach public property. Another option is to make an arrest
and lie about the circumstances in order to make the arrest appear legal. Obviously, the latter strategy will not be a tolerated pattern oflying. It would fall
into the pattern of deviant lying to be discussed later.
Officers soon learn that the interrogation stage of an arrest is an area where
certain lies are tolerated and even taught to police officers. The now famous
Miranda v. Arizona case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966 quoted
excerpts from Inbau and Reid's Criminal Interrogation and Confession text to
show that the police used deception and psychologically coercive methods in
their interrogation of suspects (George, 1966: 155-266). The latest edition of
this same text gives examples of deceptive and lying practices for ... skilled
interrogators to engage in (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, 1986).
As an illustration of these techniques ... the book notes that an effective
means to interrogate multiple suspects of a crime is "playing one offender
against the other." In this regard it is suggested that the "interrogator
may
merely intimate to one offender that the other has confessed, or else the interrogator may actually tell the offender so" (emphasis added, p. 132).
This attitude, which is borne in the frustrations of many officers, sets a
dangerous precedent for attitudes related to civil liberties. When law enforcement officers begin to tolerate lies because it serves their ends-regardless
of
the constitutional and ethical implications of those lies-then
fundamental elements of civil rights are threatened.

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ORGANIZATIONAL/INSTITUTIONAL

DEVIANCE

Deviant Police Lies


The last example raises the possibility of the third category of police lyingdeviant lies. After all "he (the suspect) can lie through his teeth. Why not us?"
Deviant police lies are those which violate substantive or procedural law
and/ or police department rules and regulations. The deviant lies which violate substantive or procedural law are improper and should not be permitted.
However, organization members (including supervisors), and other actors in
the criminal justice system are often aware of their occurrence. Noted defense
attorney Alan Dershowitz states that police lying is well known by actors in
the criminal justice system. He clearly illustrates these as the "Rules of the
Justice Game." In part, the rules include:
Rule IV: Almost all police lie about whether
tion in order to convict guilty defendants.

they violated the Constitu-

Rule V: All prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys are aware of


Rule IV.
Rule VI: Many prosecutors implicidy encourage police to lie about
whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty
defendants.
Rule VII: All judges are aware of Rule VI.
Rule VIII: Most trial judges pretend to believe police officers who they
know are lying.
Rule IX: All appellate judges are aware of Rule VIII, yet many pretend to
believe the trial judges who pretend to believe the lying police officers.
(Dershowitz, 11983: xxi-xxii).
This may be an extreme position. However, other criminal defense attorneys
believe that the police will lie in court. In fact, one study concluded that "the
possibility of police perjury is a part of the working reality of criminal defense
attorneys" (Kittel, 1986: 20). Fifty-seven percent of 277 attorneys surveyed in
this study believed that police perjury takes place very often or often (Kittel,
1986: 16). Police officers themselves have reported that they believe their fellow officers will lie in court (Barker, 1978). An English barrister believes that
police officers have perjured themselves on an average of three out of ten trials
(WoIchover, 1986).
AI; part of the research for this chapter, one of the authors asked an Internal
Affairs (IA) investigator of a major U.S. police department about officer lying:
Carter: During
to you?

the course of IA investigations,

do you detect officers lying

IA Investigator: Yes, all the time. They'll lie about anything, everything.
Carter: Why is that?
IA Investigator: To tell me what I want to hear. To help get them out of
trouble. To make themselves feel better-rationalizing
I guess. They're so
used to lying on the job, I guess it becomes second nature.

"FLUFFING

UP THE EVIDENCE

AND

COVERING

YOUR ASS"

167

An analysis of deviant lies reveals that the intent of the officer in telling
deviant lies may be either in support of perceived legitimate goals, or illegitimate goals.
Deviant
Lies in Support
of Perceived
Legitimate
Goals The deviant
lies told by the officer to achieve perceived legitimate goals usually occur to
"put criminals in jail," prevent crime, and perform various other policing responsibilities. The police officer believes that because of his/her unique experiences in dealing with criminals and the public he/she knows the guilt or
innocence of those they arrest (Manning, 1978). Frequendy, officers feel this
way independendy of any legal standards. However, the final determination of
guilt or innocence is in the Judicial System. The officer(s), convinced that the
suspect is factually guilty of the offense, may believe that necessary elements of
legal guilt are lacking, e.g., no probable cause for a "stop," no Miranda warning, not enough narcotics for a felony offense, etc. Therefore, the officer feels
that he/she must supply the missing elements. One police officer told one of
the authors that it is often necessary to "fluff up the evidence" to get a search
warrant or insure conviction. The officer will attest to facts, statements, or evidence which never occurred or occurred in a different fashion. Obviously
when he/she does this under oath, perjury has then been committed. Once a
matter of record, the perjury must continue for the officer to avoid facing disciplinary action and even criminal prosecution.
These lies are rationalized by the officer because they are necessary to ensure that criminals do not get off on "technicalities." A central reason for these
deviant lies is officer frustration. There is frustration with the criminal justice
system because of the inability of courts and corrections to handle large caseloads. Frustration with routinized practices of plea negotiations and intricate
criminal procedures which the officer may not fully understand. The officer
sees the victims of crimes and has difficulty in reconciling the harm done to
them with the wide array of due process protections afforded to defendants.
Nevertheless, the officer has fallen into "the avenging angel syndrome" where
the end justifies the means. The officer can easily rationalize lying and perjury
to accomplish what is perceived to be the "right thing." The officer's views
are short-sighted and provincial. There is no recognition that such behavior is
a threat to civil liberties and that perjury is as fundamentally improper as the
criminal behavior of the accused.
Deviant Lies in Support
of illegitimate
Goals Lies in this category are
told to effect an act of corruption or to protect the officer from organizational
discipline or civil and/or criminal liability. Deviant lies may be manifest in police perjury as the officer misrepresents material elements of an arrest or search
in order to "fix" a criminal prosecution for a monetary reward. Lying and/ or
perjury in court is an absolute necessity in departments where corrupt acts
occur on a regular basis. Sooner or later every police officer who engages in
corrupt acts or observes corrupt acts on the part of other officers will face the
possibility of having to lie under oath to protect him/herself or fellow officers.

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"FLUFFING

DEVIANCE

Skolnick has suggested that perjury and corruption are both systematic forms
of police deviance which occur for the same sort of reason: "police know that
other police are on the take and police know that other police are perjuring
themselves" (Skolnick, 1982: 42).
It is also possible that other forms of police deviance will lead to deviant
lying. For example, the officer who commits an act of police brutality may
have to lie on the report to his/her supervisor and during testimony to avoid
the possibility of criminal sanction, a civil lawsuit, or department charges. The
officer who has sex on duty, or sleeps or drinks on duty may have to lie to a
supervisor or internal affairs to avoid department discipline. The officer who
causes an injury or death to a suspect which is not strictly according to law or
police policy may have to lie to protect himself or his fellow officers from
criminal and/or civil liability.
Other implications ... were clear: officers were willing to lie during the
sworn deposition to protect themselves and others. They would swear to the
truth of facts which were plainly manufactured for their protection. Moreover, their remorse was not that they lied, but that they got caught in misconduct. Similarly, a police chief in West Virginia recently told a federal judge he
lied to investigators in order to cover up for four officers accused of beating
handcuffed prisoners (Law Enforcement News, March 15, 1989, p. 2). Again,
the illegitimate goal of "protection" surfaces as a motive for lying.
The typical police bureaucracy is a complex organization with a myriad of
rules and regulations. The informal organization, including many supervisors,
overlooks these rules until someone decides to "nail someone." Given the
plethora of rules and regulations in most large urban police departments it is
virtually impossible to work a shift without violating one. It may be common
practice to eat a free meal, leave one's beat for personal reasons, not wear one's
hat when out of the car, to live outside the city limits, etc. All of these acts
may be forbidden by a policy, rule, or regulation. When a supervisor decides
to discipline an officer for violating one of these acts, the officer, and often
fellow officers, may resort to lies to protect themselves and each other. Mter
all, such "minor" lies are inherent in the "Blue Code." Manning observes that
rule enforcement by police supervisors represents a mock bureaucracy where
ritualistic and punitive enforcement is applied after the fact (Manning, 1978).
The consequences of these seemingly understandable lies can be disastrous
when discovered. The officer(s) may be suspended, reduced in rank, or dismissed. The same organization where members routinely engage in acceptable, tolerated, and deviant lying practices can take on a very moralistic attitude
when it discovers that one of its own has told a lie to avoid internal discipline.
Nevertheless, the lies told in these examples are told in support of the illegitimate goal of avoiding departmental discipline.

CONCLUSION
The effects of lying, even those which are acceptable or tolerated, are multifold. Lies can and do create distrust within the organization. When the public

UP THE EVIDENCE

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COVERING

YOUR ASS"

learns members of the police lie or engage in deceptive practices this can undermine citizen confidence in the police. As we have seen some police lies violate citizens' civil rights and others are told to cover up civil rights violations.
Police lying contributes to police misconduct and corruption and undermines
the organization's discipline system. Furthermore, deviant police lies undermine the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

REFERENCES
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___

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