Before the age of computers and body cameras, citizens were forced into court proceedings with an attitude of, “It was my side of the story against the cops. Who do you think the jury is going to believe?” In the age of technology in which we are presently, however, the word of police officers can be called into question. But it is not enough, according to one ex-cop, who says cops are taught precisely how to manipulate police reports for deceptive purposes.
Thomas Nolan spent 27 years on the force as a cop and says he was not a very good beat cop but could write police reports bar none. He was so good at craftily wording police reports other officers inside the Boston Police Department would seek out his assistance in their own reporting. According to the Insider:
He’d routinely advise his subordinates to incorporate a short list of buzzwords in their reports to frame themselves as the hero and the suspect — who might have been injured or killed — out as the aggressor. Those use of force reports ultimately were chock-full of words like “resist,” “overcome,” “vigorous,” “violent,” “subdue,” “fear,” and “attack,” Nolan said, even if they were exaggerations.
Nolan, who is an assistant professor of Sociology at Emmanuel College, admits he used to believe what he was doing was right. He is coming clean, now, and acknowledges the practice of carefully crafting police reports to paint the officer as a hero and the suspect as a villain is deceptive at best. He told the Insider:
I thought these cops were out there doing the right thing and catching bad guys, and oftentimes did it in ways that might not pass legal muster, and I got them over the hurdle…I thought that was something that was my contribution, my necessary contribution.
In the past, it was easy to get away with abuses of power perpetrated by rogue, even criminal cops, because there was no proof to the lies they would detail in their police reports. With nearly everyone now carrying around high definition video cameras in their pockets, or built into their vehicles, lying on police reports is quite difficult to get away with, but it still happens.
What we’ve seen unfold over the years since videos have become just everyday ubiquitous depictions of police interactions with the public, is that there’s pretty solid evidence that the police have misrepresented and mischaracterized incidents they’re involved in…The recordings give substance to the skepticism that many people now have about police and their version of the events.
Just last year, Aurora Police Department Officer Justin Henderson was trespassing on Dr. P.J. Parmar’s property, a home for refugees the doctor runs. Parmar did not see Officer Henderson when he pulled into his building’s driveway. Henderson was in his patrol car reportedly writing a police report when Parmar pulled onto the property. The doctor, not wanting to scare the officer, honked his horn to let him know he was behind him.
Henderson exited the vehicle, drew his firearm, and started barking orders and profanity towards the doctor, who proceeded to drop off some Boy Scout troop materials on the property. The Indian-American doctor told the officer he was trespassing and asked him to leave. When Henderson’s backup arrived he allegedly lied and said Dr. Parmar was attempting to run him over with his vehicle. Now Parmar is suing.
The practice of fabricating lies starts with police reports in order to fit the police officer, or department’s narrative, and usually ends with the law enforcement agency’s public relations department which almost always has the final say as to what went down when a suspect encounters police. Only after all of the facts are revealed, which usually happens in a trial setting for those with enough money to take a case to trial, is the real truth ever revealed.
The lying cop turned Sociology professor says the practice of lying to protect an officer or department’s image is a perfect example of systemic corruption. In his 2019 book “Perilous Policing” Nolan wrote:
This stilted, imprecise ‘legalese’ is the commonly used verbiage found in the police lexicon and forms the base of the narrative that police use throughout the United States…The purpose of the narrative is ultimately to exculpate the police from any blame or allegation the use of force being described was unnecessary, inappropriate, excessive, or unlawful.
So what should the general public do to combat the crafty practice of law enforcement agencies and officers lying on police reports? The first thing any and every citizen has the right to do is refuse to speak with law enforcement. Remain silent. Your 5th Amendment rights apply when there is any interaction with police.
Secondly, film everything. Film every interaction with law enforcement, even those which seem unimportant. If you are forced to interact with law enforcement, even if and when they try and intimidate you into ceasing your recording, continue recording and tell them it is a protected form of free speech guaranteed to you by the constitution. Film it, save it, upload it to the cloud, and send a few copies to friends and family. And then hire an attorney. You just may need the exculpatory evidence in your own trial some day.