Lies are in the news these days — not only because this is an election year, but also because as this article goes to print the United States Supreme Court is poised to decide whether Congress can constitutionally criminalize lying about military honors. The proponents of the Stolen Valor Act have argued that such lies sow confusion about military stan­dards and undermine the integrity and public reputation of the military honors system.

While concerns about damage to a revered system may or may not be adequate to criminalize lying, they are certainly adequate to discourage lying, especially when that system is the justice system, and the liars are police officers. This article will explore the ways in which police lies are tolerated — even encouraged — within the justice system, discuss the harm that comes from those lies, and suggest actions that courts, litigators and legislators can and should take to curb those lies.

Do Police Officers Really Lie? Even in Kansas?

Police officers themselves will readily admit that they lie to suspects and the general public in the course of under­cover operations during which police take on false identities and otherwise engage in faux criminal theatrics.

These lies allow the police to secretly engage in seamy underworld conduct, from receiving lap dances at strip clubs, to soliciting illegal sex on the Internet, to manufacturing and distributing dangerous drugs.  Police also resort to fabrication as a means of inducing a suspect to confess or consent to a search.

One of the most widely cited treatises on confessions and interrogations pro­motes this category of lying as a legiti­mate police investigation tactic, stating summarily that ‘it is generally accept­able to verbally lie about evidence con­necting a suspect to a crime.’  Kansas police officers frequently use this tactic.”

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