In March of 2014, five police officers took the witness stand in a Cook County courtroom in what promised to be a routine suppression hearing where the defendant was challenging the legality of the search of his vehicle during a drug arrest. Three of the officers were from Chicago, and two from the neighboring suburb of Glenview, Illinois. They testified concerning the arresting details of the defendant and driver of the vehicle, Joseph Sperling (23). Three Chicago police officers from Chicago, and one from Glenview, have now been charged with perjury in connection with that testimony. The officers are: Chicago police Sgt. James Padar, Officer William Pruente, Officer Vince Morgan and Glenview Officer James Horn. The officer’s testimony was contradicted by a video that had been running in one of the Plainview squads; apparently the police officers did not know that such a video existed until after their testimony. The officers had essentially testified that Sperling had been stopped for failing to signal during a turn, and that once the police approached, after smelling the order of marijuana flowing from the vehicle, they spotted a black backpack in plain view on the back seat (containing a pound of marijuana). Sperling has denied that he failed to signal and insists that the backpack was hidden, not in open view. The charges have since been dismissed. The officers are scheduled to make a first appearance in court this week.
COMMENT: Of course, the officers are presumed to be not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. But if the video evidence holds up, this case demonstrates the importance of two factors: (1) Police officers, and agents of all types across the nation, should be required, whenever possible, and with very little discretion, to tape/video the arrests and questioning of all defendants. A required practice of this sort, would assist substantially in the administration of justice, and protect the interests of the defendants and the officers/agents; and (2) Police officers and agents need to rise above the notion that they can lie or deceive when making arrests because the “ends justify the means”. The “if they [the defendants] can lie to get off”, we can too. Police are essentially “ministers of justice” much in the same way that lawyers and judges are- the primary focus is justice that is fairly and evenly administered.