Cops Lie: Falsifying Traffic Stops Edition

from the citizens-paying-for-the-dubious-privilege-of-being-lied-to dept

Cops lie. It’s a statement more factual than statements cops — the people given the biggest benefit of a doubt in “your word against mine” courtroom showdowns — tend to make when testifying or filling out reports.

Here’s the most recent example of cops lying. And it’s only one of several.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper who faced multiple misdemeanor charges amid allegations of falsifying traffic stop reports has pleaded guilty.

That would be Sgt. Zachary Czerniewski, a 10-year veteran who had been promoted twice before admitting to altering traffic stop reports to alter the race of drivers (from black to white), and cover up warrantless searches of vehicles. The former alterations likely stemmed from previous discipline the trooper had received for “stopping a disproportionate amount of minorities.” The trooper was allowed to resign.

This trooper is just one of the Thin Blue Line guys. Cops lie all the time about the most basic function of law enforcement: stops of individuals and/or vehicles.

Here’s a report about Norwalk, Connecticut cop from February:

[Norwalk police] ran an audit and made a strange discovery. Traffic Division Officer Edgar Gonzalez had entered multiple warning tickets into the system, all for out-of-state motorists, without ever actual stopping the drivers.

Norwalk police said they don’t know how Gonzalez obtained the names of the drivers he allegedly entered into the system, or why those particular drivers were chosen.

Gonzalez also resigned while under investigation. He is also facing criminal charges.

From 2017:

Five Arlington police officers who had been accused of falsifying traffic stops have surrendered their state peace officer licenses to dodge criminal charges.

The officers were indicted Friday, records show, but charges of tampering with government records have been dismissed. Eleven other officers also gave up their licenses so their cases wouldn’t go to a grand jury, said Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Dace Warren, 46, faced 15 counts;  Christopher John Dockery, 32, faced 14 counts; and Dane Alan Peterson, 33, faced 10 counts. Brandon Christopher Jones, 33, and Christopher Michael McCright, 47, each faced five counts. The offenses were alleged to have happened in the first half of 2016, according to the indictments.


In May, the Arlington Police Department announced that it had suspended 15 officers after an internal audit found evidence of phony traffic stops. A 16th officer was put on leave later.

That’s a pretty (un)healthy concentration of lying cops. And, again, most were allowed to avoid criminal charges or license revocation by resigning while under investigation.

From 2020, here’s some LAPD officers making the local gang database even shittier, raising the number of officers accused of falsifying information on in-person stops to twenty:

Three Los Angeles police officers were charged Friday with falsifying records and obstructing justice by claiming without evidence that people they stopped were gang members or associates, Los Angeles prosecutors announced Friday.

Why do they do this? Well, first: it’s easy to do. Lots of stops happen. Very few are audited. Second, it helps officers achieve the ends they desire, whether it’s too look less bigoted or to ensure a steady flow of meaningless work by filling crime databases with junk data.

In other cases, it’s simply to cover up wrongdoing.

Two New Jersey police officers were found guilty of tampering and other official misconduct Thursday in a June 2012 traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway.

Essex County prosecutors said dashcam video disproved Bloomfield officers Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad’s claims that Marcus Jeter tried to grab Courter’s gun and hit Trinidad. The footage shows Jeter holding his hands up in his car and yelling out “I did nothing wrong!” as officers pull him out of an SUV and cuff him.

A similar situation, this time on the other side of the nation:

Former LMPD officer Matt Dages has pleaded not guilty to falsifying a report in the arrest of Amaurie Johnson near the Grossmont trolley station on May 27, 2020.

Dages, a three-year veteran of the force, accused Johnson of smoking on the trolley platform, leading to a confrontation between the two men. In bystander video and body-worn camera footage released during an investigation, Dages can be seen pushing Johnson to sit before his arrest on charges of resisting and assaulting an officer.


Eventually, charges were dropped against Johnson and a charge was instead filed against Dages for falsifying a police report. District Attorney Summer Stephan said Dages mischaracterized Johnson’s actions that day.

Sometimes the falsification of reports serves to directly enrich officers.

Two former Rohnert Park police officers are facing federal corruption charges of conspiracy, extortion, falsification of records and tax evasion, all tied to an alleged years-long scheme to pull over and rob people of cash and marijuana.

Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker were assigned to Rohnert Park’s drug interdiction team at various times between 2015 and 2017, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Friday.

Sometimes it appears to be nothing more than laziness.

A Delaware state trooper who received several traffic commendations has been indicted in a fraudulent traffic warning scheme in which at least two of his victims were fellow law enforcement officers, the Delaware Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Cpl. Edwin Ramirez, who was stationed at Troop 9, was charged with misdemeanor and felony tampering with public records; issuing a false certificate, a felony; and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. If convicted, he faces up to nine years in prison.


As state police continued to investigate, they found that in April alone, Ramirez issued more than 30 fraudulent warnings, according to the Justice Department. In some cases, motorists were not informed of the warnings.

In other instances, prosecutors said, the traffic stop never happened. 

Here’s a false report that was undermined by surveillance footage captured by a nearby homeowner’s camera. Here are two Philly cops being busted for writing a bogus report to justify their suspicionless stop of a city resident. Over in Florida, two more cops are caught handing out fake tickets, including 24 to the same driver. A California police officer was indicted for performing bogus traffic stops to rob drug dealers of money… at the behest of other drug dealers. Here’s a cop who was fired for covering up his assaults of citizens by writing false reports.

More data points: An officer who lied often enough had 14 of his cases tossed. Two more officers from California indicted for bogus police reports.

It’s not an epidemic. But it’s also just the tip of the iceberg. This is only a few of the notable symptoms of law enforcement rot. These are just some of those who have been caught and disciplined. Others have been caught and their punishment — what there is of it — have flown under the press radar. Others will never face punishment for their actions because their violations haven’t been egregious enough.

But this sort of behavior doesn’t arise in a vacuum. This happens because officers feel comfortable doing it. They feel confident their fellow officers will say nothing about it. And they feel assured the consequences will most likely be minimal. Even those who have been indicted or convicted resigned during investigations to avoid having a firing on their record or, in some cases, to avoid having their law enforcement certification stripped.

As police accountability efforts move forward, we will see more of this. If these efforts can be sustained, we hopefully, at some point, will see reports of this behavior decrease. But, at the moment, we’re stuck in the middle. We’re years away from better policing. And we’re still suffering the side effects of a police culture generated by decades of nearly nonexistent accountability.

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Comments on “Cops Lie: Falsifying Traffic Stops Edition”

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Wyrm (profile) says:


I’ve watched a few of them before.
But there is one difficulty that can escalate some interactions needlessly. The laws vary immensely from state to state, making it difficult to know what your rights are. The cops are supposed to know, so that’s not an excuse for them. However, some people might think and stubbornly claim that they have a right which the state law actually denies them. (In particular, the standards for being compelled to show ID are widely inconsistent.)

Some of the cases analyzed by ATA need to dig into state laws or sometimes county level ordinances to explain how the people involved (“auditor” or cop) are right or wrong.

The concept of state vs federal laws is interesting, but makes a lot of things extremely difficult. How am I supposed to know that I am actually compelled to show ID in a certain situation here when I’m visiting from a state where I am not?

More generally, lying cops should always be charged with the full power of the law, but rarely are. Citizens who are mistaken (provided they can show good faith in their mistake) are always charged with the full power of the law but should rarely be. This is really an upside-down world.

But the main problem is this: despite proof that cops are no more reliable than the next man on the street, they are given huge trust that can only be overcome by rock-solid proof. The “innocent until proven guilty” standard is all too often “innocent until accused by a cop”.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“to dodge criminal charges”

And right there is the biggest problem.
Why the hell do they have ANY escape valve to avoid charges?
Regular people never get this & while I am sure not ACAB, enough of them are that allowing those “few bad apples” a multitude of ways to avoid punishment, keep the pension, stay on the job doesn’t improve anything.

They bitch and complain about the public not having their backs, but when we see these cases they remain so very very silent. Perhaps if they protected us from the bad apples in their barrel we might have their backs, but they have proven time & time again that they will abuse any leeway they get to avoid charges & try to hide the incident from review.

People end up dead & the only one who gets to tell the story can’t be trusted to be truthful… but that is our fault for not trusting the cops over their long history of lies.

richardm0317 (profile) says:

Organized Crime

The cops in this country are the largest organized crime family in the history of this country and maybe the world.

They pretty much own the judges.
They pretty much own the politicians.
They definitely own the prosecutors.
They can commit murder on camera and walk away with nothing but a paid vacation.

Al Capone never had it so good…

David says:

Don't hope for a decrease in reports

If these efforts can be sustained, we hopefully, at some point, will see reports of this behavior decrease.

Like with reports about crime, reporting more of them ends up in public sentiment and ultimately possibly even actions against them. There will always be enough occasions to report in a country as large as the U.S., it’s sort of anecdotal evidence.

I mean, there is a report of a fresh mass shooting event once to twice every week and it doesn’t really make a noticeable impression on lawmakers.

Anonymous Coward says:

” police officers were found guilty of tampering and other official misconduct”
“…claims that Marcus Jeter tried to grab Courter’s gun and hit Trinidad.”

The potential consequences of some of these false charges are serious, including years of jail time. The officers should face WORSE consequences than what the falsely accused faced.

Anon E Moose says:

I know many decry the militarization of the police, and with good reason (what the hell do they need with an MRAP anyways). But there are definitely some elements from the military I wish they would pick up. A code of conduct, for both in and out of uniform. Clear rules of engagement denoting when an escalation of force is allowed. Dishonorable discharges and removal of benefits for those found to be breaking the rules.

All these bad cops are just like the mouth breathers who whine on forums about that they’re being censored. They want all of the freedoms (especially their perceived freedom to be an asshole), without any of the responsibilities that come with them. I would not be surprised if the psychological venn diagram of a bad cop and average internet troll have significant overlap.

Anonymous Coward says:


That’s generally a good point that i have seen brought forward in the past. The downside being that the military, like LEOs, do not ounish their own when they are on board with violations, ordered them, or don’t want potential public knowledge of such events reflecting on the entire military. Or sometimes simply can’t be arsed.

ECA (profile) says:


How old are these??
10 years?

WE have many ideas that WORK, that would Save allot of money in court.
Camera’s in cars and on persons, At least a Mic on the cop to the car recorder.
We see cops on TV with better armor when they raid homes then those on the street? WHY? At least WEAR it so you dont have to ‘Shoot first, make up a reason later”.
DATA verification; they have access to at Least 2-4 locations to tell them WHERE a person lives, or an address and WHO Should be living there, Who the owner is to ask, WHO is living there AND which apartment IS WHICH.

Then we have to have a way for them to KNOW which weapon they are using, the Gun or the Taser. Like SHAPE, FEEL and Minimum RANGE OF USE, not the back or a person head or Against the body/BACK.

But then lets discuss How laws are SUPPOSED to be created. By the consensus of the people. And with Hope and knowledge of abit of logic and science. not he said/she said. And not by some idiot that thinks a PRETTY yard is a Wonderful thing, and THEY KNOW how grass grows.

Peter says:

The Thin Blue Lie

Remember the Thin Blue Lie when you are a jury member and an officer steps up to the stand.

I for one will no longer accept an officers statement as true without independent verifiable evidence. The prosecution will have to convince me that the officer is telling the truth beyond reasonable doubt before I will find his evidence credible.

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