Why You Should Film Police Even if You’re Breaking the “Law”

It was a simple bust, as Police Officer Steven Lupo explained.

It looked like an open-and-shut case. A cop pulls over a car, walks up to the driver’s door, and sees a plastic baggy of marijuana. He brings in a drug-sniffing dog to prove probable cause for a search, gets a warrant, and finds a kilo of weed in the trunk.

Text book all the way.  The request for a medal for excellence almost writes itself.  On cross-examination, Michael Diamondstein played the “are you sure” game, locking Lupo into his testimony.  Close your eyes and envision the smug cop on the stand, calmly testify with that half-smile on his face, believing that he, Police Officer Lupo, was king of the courtroom.

In court, Diamondstein asked Lupo to confirm that account, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“Before you got to Mr. Farsi, did you open the rear driver’s side passenger door and take that individual out and pat him down?”

“No,” Lupo said.

Then Diamondstein asked, “I just want to make sure that we are clear that you certainly didn’t just open the door prior to any conversation, take him out, and pat him down. That definitely didn’t happen?” Diamondstein said.

“Correct,” Lupo replied.

Change the names and this could be the transcript from a thousand other trials.  Except what came next doesn’t happen often.

Then defense attorney Michael Diamondstein produced the video.

Turned out reality was different.

The video taken from nearby surveillance cameras contradicted key facts in Lupo’s report and sworn testimony. Most crucially, Lupo and an unidentified supervisor are seen rummaging through the trunk hours before a warrant was issued.

Straight down the line, Lupo lied, secure in the mistaken belief that he could plop his donut encrusted butt on the witness chair and tell a completely fabricated story about how he’s just about the dandiest cop ever, just doing his job, applying the Constitution and keeping us safe from the bad guys.  Except he was a liar, and Diamondstein had the video to prove it.

Judge Lydia Y. Kirkland tossed the case after the video was played.  Had no video been played, she would have been sentencing the defendant instead.

“I can just tell you from my experience,” said veteran defense attorney Diamondstein, “in the majority of cases, while the clients may not deny having narcotics, in the vast majority of cases the circumstances surrounding the arrest did not happen as it was described in the paperwork or in court.”

Years ago, New York Daily News columnist Murray Kempton coined the phrase, “there they go again, framing the guilty.”  It’s one I repeat often, as its point reflects the most problematic part of law enforcement and law.  Despite the fact that Lupo turns out to be a liar, there will be a great many people who think to themselves, “so what?”  The guy was a drug dealer, and who cares that a cop stopped a drug dealer, seized the drugs and then said what he had to say to lock the scum away.

The ends justify the means, especially when there’s an undercurrent that if it wasn’t for criminal-coddling technicalities that make a cop’s job so difficult, he wouldn’t have any need to lie.  In fact, in a perfect world, there wouldn’t have been a trial at all, Lupo’s word being all any law-abiding citizen needed.

This story was sent to me by a young Philadelphia civil litigator who was shocked (shocked!) that police officers would so brazenly lie.  He was outraged that such a thing could happen.

If they don’t press charges against the police officer for perjury, then our system of justice is a joke.  I don’t practice criminal law, but it’s like the courts downright refuse to make the police and prosecutors follow any of the rules, unless it’s so egregious that it ends up on the news.  (like Duke Lacrosse).  One way of looking at this is the prosecutor proffered perjured testimony… (though I hope the cop just lied to the DA).

To anyone who has spent time in the criminal law trenches, this has to raise a chuckle.  Even the implicit epiphany misses most of the problem.  Lupo wasn’t a lone indian, but working with his partner, and later a supervisor, all of whom studiously violated as many constitutional rights as they could get their hands on. What of the partner? What of the supervisor?  They were all complicit, both in the violation of constitutional rights as well as the conspiracy to lie to the court.  No one came forward to out Lupo’s lies.

But the bigger picture, as Diamondstein notes (and Kempton reiterated decades ago), is that this isn’t the outlier, but the norm.  There’s a game played in courtrooms, where testimony is provided that conforms to what naive or compliant judges and juries expect of police officers.  But cops know how things go in the streets, and laugh at the law.  They do what they think they have to do, what the believe they can get away with, and tell the story to the court they know it wants to hear.

When it’s only a bad guy involved, there’s no hard feelings.  It’s a game.  We fight over rules, and they lie about them to put the bad guy in prison.  Everyone goes home feeling pretty good about themselves.

Had Diamondstein not been able to get his hands on a video that proved Lupo a liar, the case would have gone down the usual path.  Lupo would have gotten another ribbon for his shield, and the defendant would be doing some time in the pokey.  The judge wouldn’t have broken a sweat buying the testimony and imposing sentence, and the prosecutor would have enjoyed a beer and the admiration of his friends for a job well done.

There was a video, this time.

After the video was played, and Lupo’s lies were revealed to even the blindest person in the room, the brazenness wasn’t over.

After seeing the video, Kirkland took over questioning. In response to her questions, Lupo admitted that his testimony about never having searched the trunk was incorrect.

“I totally forgot about he asked me to open it at one point,” Lupo said, referring to the supervisor on the scene.

“Without a warrant?” Kirkland asked. “Did you have a warrant?”

“No,” Lupo said.

He forgot.  All is forgiven.  Try that with anyone other than a cop and see how well it works out.

EPN

Ademo Freeman

was born and raised in Wisconsin, traveled the country in a RV dubbed “MARV” and is an advocate of a voluntary society, where force is replaced with voluntary interactions. He’s partaken in projects such as, Motorhome Diaries, Liberty on Tour, Free Keene, Free Talk Live and is the Founder of CopBlock.org.
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  • Diplod

    Insightful. Well-written. I suspect more and more video will prove testimony false and the police will stop. It would only take a few more police no longer permitted to testify.

  • Giovanni

    This is why we need Special Prosecutors, whose pay is tied to how many cops they convict and acting on civilian oversight…. if our judicial system is to have any hope of even resembling a fair system. The cop, partner and supervisor should all face both criminal and civil charges.

  • PixieS

    Really well written article with great advice! I have been witness to suborned perjury and it is an evil thing. We need to work hard to correct this attitude of our public servants.

  • Guy

    @Giovanni…the provision is already there via the “private attorney general”act of 1866.

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  • phillycopwatch09

    This is why I do what I do. 90% of the time I go out to film police, I come up with nothing, just a bunch of traffic stops and police activity, but I’m not deterred because the more cops see me, the more they know someone is out trying to keep them honest (or a reasonable facsimile therof).

    Cops lie,
    Video doesn’t.
    Always Film Police Encounters!

  • Ariel

    You really should give credit where credit is due as this was written by Greenfield at Simple Justice, word for word.

  • Kevin

    I’m seriously considering becoming a police officer. The only way to fix this is to get more good and honest people into the profession. I think all police officers should have a bachelor’s degree (it shouldn’t be easy to become a cop) and I don’t think anyone under 30 should be admitted. We don’t need jazzed up kids enforcing our laws, we need people who have experienced the ups and downs of life, and who have learned patience through raising their own children. No matter how big of a scumbag a person is, the ends don’t justify the means. All it takes is doing the job right and lying on the stand is not part of that.

  • PSOSGT

    Thanks phillycopblock!! So where is the footage from the 90% of the time when cops do things right? Or nothing happens? Not worthy of the internet?

    When people fill Youtube up with bad cop videos, leaving out the “90%” of good cop video’s. What is the public opinion going to be?

  • Mike

    Hey POS, you got that completely backwards…

    It’s 90% of cops who are “bad cops” and 10% who are good.

    You, of all people, should know that by now.

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  • Frank

    POSSGT: COPS ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. THEY BELONG TO THE LARGEST CRIME ORGANIZATION IN AMERICA. THEY ARE ONLY SORRY WHEN THEY ARE CAUGHT. DAY AFTER DAY THIS SHIT GOES ON AND DAY AFTER DAY, YOU DEFEND EACH AND EVERY CRIMINAL ACT THE COPS DO BY SAYING “YOU JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY GO THROUGH OUT THERE” AS A COLO. STATE TROOPER TOLD ME IN THE 70’S WHEN TRUCKERS WERE BEING SHOT AT, “GET TOUGH OR GET OUT OF THE GAME”. SAME GOES FOR THESE CRIMINALS. DON’T WANT CAUGHT, GET FUCKIN LEGAL..

  • phillycopwatch09

    @PSOSGT
    I didn’t say that 90% of the cops were doing things right, I said police activity and traffic stops, those things aren’t right (caging people and generating revenue for the state)they are just cops doing there job (for the corporate state). I can however edit together all the rude comments, foul language, threats and rough treatment of those 90% but then d*ckheads like you would say it is taken out of context. Don’t get it twisted POS Sgt, cops are just criminals with nice uniforms who lie, steal and are just as corrupt as the so-called suspects they arrest.

  • Sovereign Man

    Its a racket. Laws made by lawmakers paid by the state, enforced by cops paid by the state, prosecuted by prosecutors paid by the state, send to courts where everyone is paid by the state, and judged by judges paid by the state. The only hope is a jury, but they are handed rules to follow by the judge paid by the state and they usually listen, and any talk of jury nullification usually isnt allowed or objected to and sustained. Of course the constant state of fear through indictrination and manipulative propaganda the jury hears and sees their whole life that instills and solidifies the “cops are good and any defendant is guilty” thought process certaily doesnt help. Its great to see them ousted. It should happen more often. They should go to jail, have their whole life ruined, and sued for every penny they are worth, but oh no we cant have that. Even if there is some legal action, the cops are insured and bonded against personal financial loss. So they are back on the street jsut to do it all again for the greater good of humanity. After all they got a pothead off the street. Rediculous. All the while the cops are abusing perscription drugs, alcohol, and beating their wives and kids to let off a little steam after work.

  • Len

    Where was the camera?
    That’s the most important part of the story!

  • PaganRocker

    I can see where some people believe that it doesn’t matter about the search without a warrant because drugs were found. Hell, I’d even be inclined to side with the cop if he had told the truth from the get-go and just said, “Yes, I realize it was illegal, but I had suspicions and didn’t want to waste his time and ours waiting for a warrant.” or whatever and just told the truth. Ok, he shouldn’t have done it, but no harm done, really.

    But the problem here is that he lied. Cops should be held accountable for lying in court, just like everyone else. That is what makes him wrong.

  • Richard

    My son was pulled over for an alleged DUI. He surprised, and dismayed, his public defense attorney because he demanded a jury trial, instead of rolling over and wetting himself, and, of course, buying his freedom, by paying fines of $2,500.00.
    The older, seasoned (lazy, hardened)public defender sluffed my son’s case off to a green, recently licensed lawyer, that had just joined the Public Defenders office.
    This guy was excellent. He called out the DA and the pathetic judge on several violations of the defendant’s rights, including the right to be confronted by his accuser; the witnesses testimony being inconsistent, etc.
    The judge disallowed several of the defendant’s rights, and pretty much allowed the DA to direct the jury to a guilty verdict.
    My son asked his attorney to appeal and he did. In an unanimous decision of the three judge appeals court, the case was reversed.
    I highly recommend that ALL DUI defendants insist on a jury trial.
    This will so jam up the courts, that reforms will be made, DA’s will stop railroading the accused by threats, intimidation, and lies, and perhaps legislators will stop passing unconstitutional laws that attempt to punish people for what MIGHT occur (injury or property damage)from someone driving while under the influence. Even a little thought will lead to how ridiculous this becomes.
    Punishment is for those who actually CAUSE HARM. Otherwise, we are all guilty because there are lots of things that COULD happen!
    Also, the vast majority of the DUI cases were Hispanic, many had to have an interpreter, and they invariably plead guilty (in fact, without exception) and there were dozens of them. The very stiff fines are more than these people earn in 4-5 months, or about what wealthy white guys make in a bad day, especially their lawyers.

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