Last week, the Davis County attorney’s office started issuing questionnaires to police officers that ask whether they have been caught lying or done something else that could jeopardize court cases in which they might be called to testify.
“The credibility of prosecutors’ offices matter,” Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings explained. “There is a growing sentiment of concern with prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecution entities must police themselves and document compliance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings.”
Rawlings got the idea for the questionnaires from Salt Lake City prosecutor Padma Veeru-Collings. Her office started issuing them in December.
The Salt Lake City questionnaire asks about past and pending complaints, investigations, or disciplinary actions concerning truthfulness or conduct involving deception in the performance of an officer’s official duties.
It also asks if a judge or prosecutor has made allegations or findings reflecting on an officer’s truthfulness or bias, and if an officer has ever been arrested, charged with, or convicted of a crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice has been issuing such questionnaires to law enforcement for years, and Salt Lake City’s form asks the same questions. In some cases, it appears, Salt Lake City’s prosecutors actually attached the Department of Justice questionnaire to subpoenas it issued to police officers.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank had told his officers not to answer the questionnaires. Instead, Burbank said he asked Veeru-Collings to go through other police department staff tasked with tracking discipline records.
In an interview, Burbank said he already fires any officer found to have lied. Also, Burbank said, some officers can find themselves testifying in court five times a week and it’s more efficient to have staff “pre-certify” that an officer has no history of dishonesty then notify prosecutors if that changes.
“To have [an officer] fill out the form five times is redundant,” Burbank said.
Michael Tuttle, president of the Salt Lake City Police Association, questioned whether a dishonest police officer would answer the form correctly, anyway.
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