Michigan Prosecutor Begins Publicizing Quarterly List Of Cops Who've Lied On The Job
"In an era of criminal justice reform, it just makes sense," Kym Worthy said of her plan intended to bring heightened transparency.
July 21, 2020 at 11:53 pm
The public will now have access to a list of police officers who have been punished for lying on the job in Detroit and elsewhere in Wayne County, Michigan, thanks to County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
Last week, Worthy released the first installment of the list, which she plans to publish quarterly, featuring the names of officers who are unable to testify in court due to having lied on the job.
The Detroit News was able to obtain the first list of 35 officers from the county's 43 police departments and sheriff's offices.
“Because trials will begin again mid-August and September, we thought it was important to send this out to our prosecutors and defense attorneys," Worthy told Detroit Free Press. "There are currently 35 officers on the list. We are taking the additional step of releasing the list to the public, because in an era of criminal justice reform, it just makes sense. We will repeat this process quarterly and expect to release an updated list in September."
Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller told the newspaper that the list was compiled from each department and included anyone who had been convicted of criminal violations or in-house departmental violations related to lying. The current list has nearly 30 officers from Detroit, and eight are in prison.
Worthy, who has served as the prosecutor for Wayne County for 16 years, made the decision to release the list in light of the recent protests over police brutality and killings. During protests over the past two months, demonstrators have called for greater accountability within police departments and demanded more information about the past actions of police officers.
"These are crimes that can be considered by fact finders in a trial when credibility is being assessed," Worthy said.
The criteria for the list was determined based on which officers were "Giglio-impaired," a term local prosecutors use to refer to police who have disciplinary issues related to lying on their records, according to The Detroit News. Due to the U.S. Supreme Court case Giglio v. United States in 1972, prosecutors now have to tell defense attorneys about any officer with a history of fabricating information.
Last year, The Detroit News managed to get the police force to release the Giglio-impaired list, which, according to Detroit FOIA Coordinator Jack Dietrich, had 74 Detroit Police Department officers on it.
"However, 20 of those instances cannot be confirmed as discipline records were destroyed. Therefore, at this time DPD can only affirmatively state that 54 officers have been found to have been untruthful," Dietrich said.
Now, Worthy is making the list public, but her list excludes officers reprimanded for smaller infractions like lying on their time sheet, according to The Detroit News. That information was included on the list from the DPD.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he has "always welcomed transparency," and added that "under this administration, if a police officer is found guilty of making a false statement, that's a termination case. This is a position I've taken for a while now."
"I just had a conversation with a group of activists a few days ago, and they asked me about the Giglio issue. I told them: I can't undo a decision that was made before I got here; if an officer was found guilty of untruthfulness and was only suspended, contractually, I can't go back and fire them," he said. "There have been instances where I've modified the work assignments of officers with truthfulness issues. You can't have them doing reports because they'll be challenged. You can't have them making arrests because they'll be challenged."
Many of those on the list have retired or left the force, and The Detroit News report notes that most move on from their jobs as a way of escaping accountability for infractions like falsification.
"If you make a decision to resign while you're under investigation, we can't administer discipline," Craig said. "But what I can do is make a note on their file that they retired under charges. That way, if that officer were to apply to another police department, they would know that the officer didn't just retire, but they retired under charges, and it would then be up to that hiring agency if they wanted to do a deeper background check."
But other officers have taken issue with the list, saying it maligns officers who had been unfairly accused of lying or penalized over complex cases.
The Detroit News spoke with the Black police chief of Lansing, Daryl Green, who said he appeared on the list due to a complicated situation 20 years ago that was exacerbated by his race. In an email, he said a racist superior wrote him up for lying due to legitimate confusion over how a situation was described in a written report.
At the time, he and other Black officers were speaking out about the racist conditions of the local police department and said the charges were directly related to his outspokenness.
"This illegitimate report to the prosecutor may be related to the racial issues at the time. I am happy to say that those racist issues no longer exist and have not for quite some time," Green said.
When pressed on Green's case and others like it, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon deflected blame, saying police departments themselves compiled the list and that she had no control over who was deemed worthy of being included. Her office simply compiled the lists sent to them and forwarded them along, she said.
But Robert Stevenson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, defended Green and said prosecutors were the ones who came up with the Giglio-impaired list.
He said the process was "totally arbitrary" and that prosecutors did not provide officers with a review or appeal process to fight claims they thought were unfair.
"If a prosecutor decides someone is on the list, they're on the list. I think each case should be evaluated on its own merits," Stevenson said. "I have mixed feelings about releasing officers' names because the circumstances are varied, and I'm concerned we're painting people with the same brush."