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Law

Police On 'Bad Cop' List Wouldn't Be Disciplined Under Proposed Wash. Bill

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Scott Davidson
/
Flickr

Even with all the talk about police misconduct, a bill in the Washington legislature could result in less discipline for cops accused of bad behavior.

When a cop is put on the stand as a witness for the prosecution during a trial, if there’s anything in the officer’s background indicating a lack of truthfulness or bias or misconduct, the prosecution is required to let the defense team know about it since it could help clear the accused.Prosecutors now keep lists of these “problem officers" and try not to use them. The list is called a Brady list, after Brady v. Maryland, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment."

What the legislation being considered by the Washington legislature would do is prevent police departments from disciplining officers just because they end up on the Brady list.

Tom McBride with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys is in favor. He says, there’s not a real standard for what gets someone on the list.

"There’s stuff that’s on the list that’s debatable, that’s arguable about whether it’s really that significant or not. A lot of stuff that’s on a Brady list never comes into a trial because everyone looks at it and says, 'Wow, that’s so minor and that’s so old we don’t want to have it,'" Mcride said during testimony before the Washington House Labor Committee.

Supporters of the proposed legislation point out that police departments would still be able to conduct their own separate investigations and discipline officers who are found guilty of misconduct.