By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I am continuing my series on the top 5 attitudes I see from police officers in cases I defend. The attitudes I see are in no particular order but they do reflect attitudes I see before, during and even after an investigation all the way to a courthouse when a police officer is testifying.
#2 — Victim Mode
When police believe someone is a victim before even beginning an investigation — they are their most dangerous.
Clearly a dead body with several stab wounds in the back is almost certainly a victim. But what about a teenaged girl who claims a sexual encounter was non-consensual 6 weeks after the fact?
The biggest bi-product of a law enforcement officer (or prosecutor for that matter) heading straight into victim mode is it triggers circular logic for the remainder of the investigation. I see this heavily in sexual assault cases and domestic abuse cases.
Let’s say a couple has a few too many drinks at home on a Saturday night in anywhere, USA. The wife stumbles and falls, hits her head which causes bleeding and has to call an ambulance… why do we need every ambulance driver, police officer, and later police detectives calling the woman telling her “the abuse will only get worse” if she stays with the husband?
Circular logic. The narrative starts and ends with guilt.
Let’s go back to the teenaged girl claiming a sexual encounter was non-consensual after the fact. When all the school counselors, police officers, and prosecutors sprint to help the “victim” before actually determining whether she’s a “victim” disaster ensues. Police and investigators become immediately antagonistic not only to the accused — but to anyone who sides with the accused. The accused and/or advocates for the accused can proffer evidence of innocence and arguments for innocence until they are blue in the face. A detective or investigator who has already determined the accused is guilty will use confirmation bias to parry off any facts which don’t fit.
If an officer is has pre-programed themselves to believe the high-school boy is a rapist, then every eye-twitch is scrutinized and flipped into evidence of guilt. Circular logic.
Officers and others in the criminal justice system in “victim” mode truly believe they are helping others. I joke that officers in “victim” mode are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their arms folded along with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But it’s not funny because they don’t understand how dangerous they are when they’re wrong.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.