Whether Or Not The Police Officer Followed Policy Is Not Relevant And So A Police Expert Is Not Needed

Can you believe that I was recently told that by a Public Defense agency administrator? My response, "Did you watch the Derek Chauvin trial?"

I lost count at about 3 police experts who testified for the prosecution specifically around the policies, procedures and training as one of the main foundations of their case. If I remember correctly, it was the police experts, some medical experts and a few civilian witnesses. Days and days and days of expert testimony.

If policy and procedure is what the prosecution is basing their case on, one might imagine a defense attorney would, at minimum, have an expert to refute that testimony whether or not that was the main defense strategy. 

Let me be clear, policies, procedures and training, as well as culture, are critical to determining why the police do what they do. And that's why someone who understands that, and who can get into the mindset of the police officer, reasonable or not, is huge in a criminal case.

The American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Defense Standards specifically recommend the retention of an expert and finding a way to pay for them.

Standard 4 - 4.1 Duty to Investigate and Engage Investigators

(d) Defense counsel should determine whether the client’s interests would be served by engaging fact investigators, forensic, accounting or other experts, or other professional witnesses such as sentencing specialists or social workers, and if so, consider, in consultation with the client, whether to engage them. Counsel should regularly re-evaluate the need for such services throughout the representation.

(e) If the client lacks sufficient resources to pay for necessary investigation, counsel should seek resources from the court, the government, or donors. Application to the court should be made ex parte if appropriate to protect the client’s confidentiality.  Publicly funded defense offices should advocate for resources sufficient to fund such investigative expert services on a regular basis. If adequate investigative funding is not provided, counsel may advise the court that the lack of resources for investigation may render legal representation ineffective.

According to the ABA standards, the lack of resources, such as an expert witness may impact the ability for counsel to be effective which not only potentially impacts the defendant but the attorney's performance as well.


"They never taught me this in law school!"

Said one attorney client of mine.

Well, of course not! Law school is for moot court, mock juries and case briefing, not pursuit driving, defensive tactics, and emergency situations.

My lawyer client was unhappy because I was identifying and describing things that she was unable to recognize herself. Wanting to be the best lawyer she could, she wanted to do better. Which is awesome. 

"You never know what you will find under rocks, so I always recommend looking, even if it's scary."

As an investigator, and former police officer, I can tell you I know where the dirt lies, if there is any.

© Copyright A Police Law Enforcement Expert Witness - Christine Burke