Criminal Defense Attorneys Making a List, Checking It Twice

In criminal defense cases, police officers often play key roles in prosecuting the defendant. Responsible for arrests, searches, and even testimony during the trial, police shoulder a large amount of the burden of proof of guilt. But what happens when police lie about information in a case? Criminal defense attorneys in Utah may have an interesting answer to that.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (UACDL) has created a database of information on “crooked cops” who might threaten the integrity of a criminal defense case. The complaints reportedly involve use of questionable techniques during the arrest, investigation, or trial of a criminal case.

Kent Hart, a lawyer for Salt Lake City’s Federal Defense Office, maintains and updates the list, sources say. Because of the nature of the information, only the 285 attorneys in the UACDL can access the database, according to reports, and they are encouraged not to share the information.

Though sources indicate that Hart makes an effort to preserve the quality and legitimacy of complaints filed, he notes that the site includes a disclaimer removing responsibility for the truth of the information from the criminal lawyers involved.

Among the police complaints mentioned in the Tribune’s article were the following: officers who received legal reprimands for their lack of credibility in court; officers who altered information on police reports; an officer who refused to show footage from his cruiser’s camera, insisting he “forgot” to change the tape; units that are known to have aggressive or rough search techniques and cops who have been repeatedly accused (if not convicted) of generally aggressive or shady behavior.

So how do police chiefs react when they hear their officers’ names are appearing on such a database?

Apparently, rather well. The Tribune reports that, of the two chiefs interviewed, both commended the efforts of Utah’s defense attorneys. One police chief allegedly said he took his unit’s integrity seriously, and saw the database as a positive force.

Another mentioned that police officers have a duty to be honest, according to reports. But, sources add, both approved the database only after verifying that the claims included were based on actual evidence, not just hearsay.

This reaction is appropriate for the reported aims of the criminal defense attorneys who run and use the database. Their goal is reportedly to make information already available to the public more easily accessible to those it could benefit-not to defame or harm police officers and units.

According to reports, the database includes the full names of “crooked” officers, including those who have recently lost their certification for Peace Officer Standards and Training. Sources indicate that, for many defense attorneys in Utah, the list provides an important starting point when investigating cases.