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Should it be harder to prove a police officer lied?

Police recruits attend a recent graduation ceremony at LAPD Headquarters 
 (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police recruits attend a recent graduation ceremony at LAPD Headquarters (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles has proposed legislation that would change the standard for proving whether an officer lied in a report or testimony.

The bill, AB 1298, would alter procedures for police disciplinary hearings under state law and aims to protect officers who make innocent mistakes, or if they unknowingly stated incorrect facts.

Assemblyman Santiago was unable to contribute to Take Two's on-air segment but he issued this statement afterward: 

"Currently, a police officer may be fired or relieved from duty based upon, amongst other things, a false statement made by that officer in the course of an investigation.  This is the case regardless of whether that statement is intentionally false or not.  My AB 1298 raises the bar here to ensure that career-determining punishments for officers match actual misconduct on their part by standardizing the burden of proof required in these instances."

It is not entirely clear how common it is for an officer to face discipline for making false statements, even if it seems like a slight one or an innocent mistake.

"It would be helpful if the proponents of the bill could point to examples where officers or deputies have been disciplined for lying, based on honest mistakes - I'm just not aware of any," said Michael Gennaco, founding Principal of the O-I-R Group, which works with local governments on police oversight.   "One of the problems is there is so much secretiveness with regard to these kind of cases, that its very hard to do any kind of analysis." 

Recently, there's been some movement at the LA County Sheriffs Department to crack down deputies for lying. On whether there a connection between this and what is happening in the legislature, Gennaco had this to say: "It may be a reaction to what Sheriff McDonnell is doing with regard to ferreting out, rooting out deputies that violate their oath of office and make false statements."

"The other thing that's going on is that the Sheriff want to provide this information to the District Attorney, and the union has sued there and that's all tied up in courts," said Gennaco. "So this may in fact be a reaction to that, yes. "

Click on the blue player to hear the entire interview.