HAMILTON, Ohio -- The Butler County Prosecutor's Office started a new procedure Monday to check on police officers' credibility.
That change is the result of a WCPO I-Team investigation, which found Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser didn't ask law enforcement agencies to refer cases of police misconduct to his office.
If an officer involved in a case has a history of actions that raise questions about his or her credibility, prosecutors are required to disclose that information to the defense team under Brady v. Maryland, a decades-old Supreme Court ruling. When they don't, serious convictions, even death sentences, can be overturned.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell keep track of those officers. Their offices provided the I-Team with a list of the officer’s names and police agency, often called a "Brady list."
Gmoser learned about cases of untruthful Butler County police officers from us.
"If that information isn't being given to the prosecutor and the prosecutor doesn't ask for it, and that information isn't provided to the defense, you are basically hamstringing a person's ability to defend their client," said Carl Lewis, a veteran criminal defense attorney.
Over the past few months, Gmoser developed a new policy as a result of our investigation: Each assistant prosecutor will ask questions to any testifying police officer or other witness in a position of authority that go to issues of credibility.
Specifically, officers will be asked "have you been investigated and/or found guilty of (or currently under investigation for) conduct, as it pertains to your service as a law enforcement agent, regarding:"
- excessive use of force
- lying to superiors during an internal investigation or administrative police investigation
- lying to superiors during a criminal investigation
- falsifying police reports
- making misleading reports
- planting evidence
- embellishing police reports
- theft of evidence in police custody
- a theft offense, either a felony or misdemeanor
- inappropriate records of checks of detainees, witnesses or any other persons
- any history of lying in the process of testifying or preparing affidavits under oath
According to a review of records the I-Team obtained, at least 30 police and corrections officers would have to answer "yes" if asked if they have been under investigation for those matters. We identified a dozen current officers who had been disciplined for those offenses.
Gmoser declined to comment Monday, but previously told us the changes would "make police officers more accountable and more aware of their responsibility to do the right things."
Carl Lewis, a veteran criminal defense attorney, told us last fall it goes to the integrity of the American justice system itself.
"Our administration of justice depends on honesty, integrity and trustworthiness," Lewis said. "Whenever you tear away at that fabric, you are, in my opinion, destroying our administration of justice."