Prosecutors Use Blacklists to Keep Dishonest Officers out of the Courtroom
by Kevin Bliss
District attorney offices across the nation are adopting blacklists of officers whose testimony in court is untrustworthy. Referred to as “do not call lists,” “exclusion lists,” or “Brady lists,” D.A.s have stated that they will not prosecute cases or accept search warrant requests from officers on these lists.
Kim Gardner, chief prosecutor of St. Louis, Missouri, created a list of 29 officers whose cases she has refused or will not accept because these officers have been accused of lying, abuse, or corruption. The list is shared with other prosecutors, so all may be aware of those officers whose testimony could be challenged in court.
Law enforcement officials are concerned because they did not have any input on who goes on the lists. “Kim Gardner is saying that when you dial 911 you’re playing 911 roulette: You may get an officer who’s on her list and who can’t give you justice,” said Jeff Roorda, spokesperson for St. Louis Police Officers Association.
Police union leaders feared that names could arbitrarily be placed on the list from false accusations. Prosecutors stated that they investigated an officer’s credibility over years before placing him or her on the list. “As elected prosecutors, we have the discretion to choose whether to entertain certain cases from certain individuals. Our obligation is to evaluate the credibility of any witness, regardless of whether they’re police. We have people whose liberty is at stake,” said Gardner.
Challenges still exist with its successful implementation of blacklists. Information is not shared if an officer on one list transfers to a department in a different state. Some states do not allow D.A.s access to police disciplinary reports. Some forms of dishonesty occur at a level indiscernible because of the sheer volume of cases prosecuted.
Ronal Serpas, executive director of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, supports a “one and done” policy as he backed when leading the Nashville and New Orleans police departments. “You don’t need to have a ‘Brady no call’ list if the police department is terminating people,” he stated.
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