Police complaint forms with perjury clauses
Those interested in police behavior, especially outside of the suppression context, tend to be interested in the mechanics surrounding the filing of complaints against police officers with the police department that the officer works for. One facet of this issue is police departments that give complainants a hard time in obtaining a complaint form. That issue is well covered elsewhere and this entry is not about that.
Another facet of the police complaint process, and one that interests me, is the perjury clause that is included on many police complaint forms. This clause typically says that false complaints will be investigated and/or prosecuted for perjury. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, the context should be considered. Even policemen who file false reports are very seldom charged with criminal perjury. But, on the other hand, these complaint forms having perjury clauses remind complainants remind the regcit that the police department will be relatively motivated to charge the regcit with perjury. I see this as a thinny veiled threat of asymmetrical “warfare” (lawfare?), and the asymetricality clearly stacks the deck in favor of the popo. In the he-said-she-said world of police complaints, this is, to me at least, a big deal. I don’t like perjury clauses in police complaint forms. Still, I have never seen anybody else complain about perjury clauses, and I have never made so much as an anonymous blog comment complaining about this issue.
Against this background, it was nice to see a footnote in PERRY v. CITY OF HOUSTON (S.D.Tex. 8-24-2012) which informs that Houston, Texas had gotten rid of the perjury clauses in its police complaint forms. Now, the opinion held that a perjury clause could not be considered to cause a pattern of police misconduct, and this much seems correct to me. However, I was still glad to see that Houston has dumped the perjury clause, and I hope other jurisdictions follow suit.