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 often times 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.