Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


Top Legislative Priority: Bring an End to Police Misconduct, Restore Impartial and Fair Investigations

WASHINGTON / January 27, 2021 – The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is today calling on state lawmakers to make criminal justice reform a top legislative priority for 2021, with a particular focus on ending police misconduct and restoring impartial police investigations.

The National Registry of Exonerations, which tracks all exonerations in the United States, has documented over 2,700 wrongful convictions since 1989 (1). One-third of these cases arose from police misconduct, especially police investigations that manipulated the evidence in order to increase the likelihood of a conviction.  These manipulations involved:

  • Concealment of evidence
  • Fabrication of evidence
  • Witness tampering
  • Misconduct in interrogations, or
  • Making false statements at trial

Police misconduct has a disparate impact on Black male defendants. For murder cases, 78% of Black exonerees, compared to 64% of White exonerees, experienced official misconduct. The misconduct disparity was even greater for drug crimes: 47% among Blacks and 22% for Whites.

Police manipulation of evidence arises from the growing the influence of so-called “victim-centered” approaches that presume the guilt of the accused. These guilt-presuming investigations go by a variety of names such as “Start By Believing” and “trauma-informed.” (2)

The Arizona Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women directed criminal justice agencies to reject Start By Believing methods because their use “creates the possibility of real or perceived confirmation bias,” allows for the impeachment of prosecutor witnesses, and harms the credibility of future victims (3).

A petition signed by over 4,300 persons is now demanding an end to “Start by Believing” investigations that presume the guilt of the accused (4). The petition highlights the plight of Matt Rolph, who was targeted by an investigator who failed to consider exculpatory evidence. The jury later found Rolph innocent of all charges.

Due process commentator Wendy McElroy recently wrote, “The increased likelihood of false convictions needs to be stressed, because the trauma and tragedy of false convictions is often ignored or diminished…Turning accusations into convictions only makes prisoners of innocent people.” (5)

“Victim-centered” methods violate police ethical requirements to conduct investigations that are honest, fair, and impartial (6). The Center for Prosecutor Integrity urges state lawmakers to enact laws and pass resolutions that ban the use of “victim-centered” investigative approaches.