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Under a strong spotlight presently: police credibility

"[M]aybe, in another time and place."

Those words loom loud and large in a recent media report focusing upon one high-profile occupation, namely, that of police officer.

What they refer to is the reservoir of public trust that has traditionally buoyed up officers' accounts of criminally related instances that differ from the stories of the suspects who offer a competing interpretation.

Historically, police officers' versions of the truth have often prevailed without much probing and influenced juries to convict alleged wrongdoers. Officers have "typically enjoyed a presumption of rectitude," states the aforementioned media piece.

Anyone in North Carolina or elsewhere who follows the news knows, though, that police credibility has collectively taken a beating over the past year or so, with a recurring roll call of stories featuring discredited accounts of what police officers say happened in a given situation.

It has been "a bad year for police officers by anyone's reckoning," states a columnist for the Detroit Free Press commenting on incidents across the country where video cameras have undermined police accounts concerning citizen interactions.

Indeed, the effect of digital evidence on many police cases has been material in recent months.

Moreover, and as noted by the newspaper, it has had a deleterious effect on the trust that has long been extended by the public in matters involving police interpretation. Candidly, more people are skeptical and unwilling to accept a police story at face value.

Is that a bad thing?

Many commentators say no, with one noting that justice is better served when jurors bring a bit more of a prove-it-to-me attitude to their evaluations in a criminal case.

He says that a harder look at officers and the evidence they are offering in court is simply an acknowledgement that "the police are just people" and that, where police testimony is concerned, "the scales are just being tipped back to where they always belonged."

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