Video of Durham Regional officer raises questions about police testimony

A video posted to YouTube has raised questions about the reliability of police testimony. The video shows a Durham Regional police officer talking aggressively to a man. In addition, the officer apparently threatens to falsify evidence relating to drug possession.

Reports of problems with the truthfulness of police testimony go beyond this particular video and beyond cases involving drug charges. There have been various instances over the past several years when Ontario judges concluded that police officers had given untruthful testimony in court.

A new provincial policy has been implemented to deal with such false testimony by law enforcement personnel. However, some criminal defence lawyers have expressed concern about the effectiveness of the policy.

Video shows officer threatening Oshawa man

The YouTube video shows at least two Durham Regional police officers outside a house with two men. A Toronto Star article indicates that the video was recorded at a location in Oshawa. One of the officers is speaking aggressively to one of the men, and at one point the officer apparently threatens to "make cocaine ... appear."

The Toronto Star story indicates that the officer was disciplined by the Durham Regional Police Service but remains on the force.

This video seems to provide evidence of one police officer's willingness to falsify evidence. Presumably the false evidence would have been supported by untruthful testimony delivered by the same officer in court.

Defence lawyers criticize new Ontario policy on untruthful police testimony

Naturally, defence lawyers are strongly in favour of government action to address the problem of untruthful testimony by law enforcement personnel. Nevertheless, a new Crown policy on false testimony by police in Ontario has been criticized by some defence lawyers, according to an article in the Law Times (a weekly newspaper focusing on the legal profession in Ontario).

The procedure, which begins when a trial judge makes a finding that an officer's testimony was not truthful, involves multiple steps. Ultimately, the Ministry of the Attorney General is required to refer such a matter to the untruthful officer's home police force. However, the article indicates that, in the first eight months the policy was in place, only three such instances were actually referred to police forces in Ontario.

In addition, two criminal defence lawyers quoted in the Law Times article question the need for a special policy on police untruthfulness in court. One of the defence lawyers refers to the policy as "a bureaucratic quagmire from which a charge of perjury will never emerge."

Anyone who has been charged with a drug offence in Ontario should strongly consider engaging legal counsel. A lawyer with experience in drug cases can thoroughly assess the facts of your case and offer timely advice as well as vigorous representation at each stage of the judicial process. In addition, experienced defence counsel can expertly interrogate police officers and other witnesses.