In 1963 the Supreme Court/ Brady v. Maryland, ruled that prosecutors must inform those accused of a crime about any evidence that might help their defense at trial and that includes sharing the information on something known as the “Brady List.”
Counties across the country are, by law, required to keep a detailed list of police officers who have committed crimes, who have lied on the job or whose honesty is deemed “questionable”. We’re not talking about officers who have been fired either, these are officers that are still on the job, still asserting their authority, still putting people behind bars, even those sometimes wrongly accused.
With so many offenses coming down to a police officer’s word against the so-called “offender”, it was interesting to learn that those in law enforcement who have a habit of lying or being deceitful, those who have committed crimes, some of which include DUI’s or racial bias, are by law, supposed to be on a “public list” of their own, a list of cops of “questionable ethics” as it were, the Brady List.
So why don’t we ever hear about the “public” Brady List? Why are the wrong-doings of those in law enforcement kept a well- guarded secret while the same consideration is not given to those on the “sex offender registry”? After all, it is the law, a list is a list and wouldn’t we all like to know who the “bad cops” are, just for “safety’s sake” of course.
The USA Today Network spent more than a year investigating this country’s compliance with the 1963 Supreme Court’s ruling and the results were shocking:
Thousands of people have faced criminal charges or been incarcerated based on testimony by officers that had credibility issues.
There were at least 300 prosecutor’s offices that were not in compliance and not taking any measures to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. These offices had no Brady List that kept track of dishonest or untrustworthy law enforcement officers. What constituted a list-worthy “offense” by an officer also varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There is no comprehensive “rule” as to what behaviors land an officer on “the list” and few repercussions for police or prosecutors that disregard the requirement. All sounds very loosie-goosey if you ask me.
Some counties that did have a Brady List refused to make the list public, thereby rendering the public and those accused, helpless in knowing whether or not the law was even being complied with.
There were other lists with over 1,200 officers identified by USA Today as having histories of misconduct or lying that had not been flagged by prosecutors and over 261 that had been disciplined for dishonesty.
Prosecutors that didn’t keep Brady Lists gave the following reasons for not keeping a list, they “knew their officers well” and they were “concerned that the officers jobs could be jeopardized if they were placed on a list based on minor or unfounded accusations.”
I can’t help but wonder how many registrants and others may have been wrongly accused or ended up on the registry due to untrustworthy testimony by law enforcement officers who should have been on “the list,” but weren’t. How many registrants are on the list based on minor or perhaps unfounded accusations? How many registrants can no longer find jobs because they are on a “public list’? And how many registrants are dragged into jail every year for “failure to register” because that’s the law and yet police officers and prosecutors can flout the law without any penalty and continue their careers?
There’s an old saying, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
If registrants are held to the law requiring that they be on a “public list” for their wrong doings, shouldn’t counties, prosecutors and law enforcement be held to that law which requires them to provide, a “public list” of law enforcement officers accused of wrong-doings?
I think we can even make it easy for counties to comply with the law.
As a cost-saving measure let me suggest that counties use the already “handy-dandy registry template” for those who are supposed to be on the Brady List, names, pictures, offenses, addresses, places of employment, etc.
Just thinking of public safety, of course.