“The Air Was Blue with Perjury”: Police Lies and the Case For Abolition
Police officers lie. About nearly every aspect of their work and at every stage of the criminal legal process—in arrest paperwork, warrant affidavits, courtroom testimony, and disciplinary proceedings. The primary scholarly account of police perjury frames the problem as one that emerged largely after the Supreme Court decided Mapp v. Ohio, which made the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applicable in state criminal proceedings. But a gap exists in the literature, one this Note seeks to fill: Scholars have neglected to consider whether, and to what extent, police lied before Mapp. By reaching into the historical record, this Note uncovers a rich tradition of rank perjury dating back to the origins of modern policing.
Building on the insight that police have lied for as long as police have existed, this Note sketches an abolitionist framework for police perjury. A structural understanding better accounts for the fact that police lies legitimate police power and figure prominently in two other features of modern policing—racialization and violence. In offering a new framework to understand the perjury problem, this Note joins the growing chorus of scholars, organizers, and activists calling for defunding and dismantling the police.