Law Enforcement on the Stand Course
With 30+ years of courtroom and law school teaching expertise in her quiver, Professor Caren Cambre JD has created a course specifically designed to teach law enforcement officers how to become credible and effective witnesses. As a career homicide prosecutor in New York and Louisiana, she worked extensively with law enforcement conducting investigations and presenting their testimony throughout the litigation.
Why did you create Law Enforcement on the Stand?
As a prosecutor, I once convinced a frightened 16-year-old to testify in a murder prosecution. Less than 12 hours after he testified, he was killed in retaliation for his testimony. The prosecution lost the case and when I questioned the jurors on their verdict, they said, “We did not believe the police.” That is something that is heard all too often. I want to change that. Officers testify at various phases of criminal cases and the stakes are high. Cases are won or lost based not just on the quality of the investigation, but also on the testimony of law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, law enforcement too often takes the stand without adequate preparation or any meaningful training on how to answer the questions lawyers are trained to ask.
Who needs this training?
In doing this training across the country, I have never met an officer who becomes an officer because he/she wanted to testify. But giving testimony under oath is an important part of the job. The recent negative media coverage law enforcement has been getting makes that part of the job much more difficult. As witnesses, officers today face an uphill battle to build their credibility on the stand. Every officer who conducts an investigation and/or writes a report needs to be prepared to be a witness. No matter how many years an officer has had on the job, that officer has had little, if any witness training. Officers who have participated in this training have said, “I have waited years for this kind of training” and “Everyone in our department needs this class.”
What issues are addressed during the training?
This training addresses the following recurring issues faced by law enforcement witnesses:
- The critical connection between the report writing and testimony is examined. Reading the report is not enough to prepare for court. New approaches to being prepared are discussed.
- Attitude and demeanor have an enormous effect on credibility. Officers will learn skills to improve both attitude and demeanor.
- Strategies to present direct testimony more effectively will be outlined. Credible direct testimony wins cases.
- Officers will be taught methods to handle impeachment and other attacks by defense counsel on cross examination.
- Simple explanations for common legal objections will be presented and officers will be taught how to handle objections.
- Exhibits and how they are admitted and effectively used will be demonstrated.
- Understanding prosecution themes and theories, and knowing how they affect testimony are examined.
What methods are used?
This two-day, intensive course combines interactive lectures with role play and other proven teaching methods to prepare officers for what to expect when they are called to testify. A variety of interactive drills designed to keep everyone in the class engaged and participating are used to teach officers the necessary skills to be better witnesses. Working in small break-out groups, officers are given short fact patterns and asked to come up with tactics and strategies to be effective and credible witnesses in a variety of situations.
Officers working with mock crime problems I created, present mock trials playing the roles of prosecutor, defense counsel, and witness. Participants are given extensive feedback and critique. This is not a lecture course - it is unique hands-on training.
How is this training useful to HIDTA?
HIDTA is committed to the goal of supporting law enforcement in the fight against drug trafficking and associated crimes. Law enforcement witness training is a critical weapon in that fight. For investigations to result in conv ictions, officers must give effective and credible testimony. Credible testimony makes arrests count. Even an excellent prosecutor does not have the teaching skills necessary to properly prepare law enforcement to testify. Lawyers are taught how to ask the questions, but it is the answers given that win or lose cases. Officers deserve to be taught how to answer the questions.
The enormous amounts of time, effort and resources provided by HIDTA, and used on the street in investigations, can be lost in one misspoken word on the stand in court. HIDTA has the ability to make this training available to a broad range of law enforcement agencies. This witness training program for officers can be an essential element of HIDTA's mission to support law enforcement.
Lake County HIDTA hosted the course last month and according to Training Coordinator Mike Denny, it was well received by all of the attendees. "'Great training! "Would recommend that all officers receive this training" and, "If you are in any part of criminal prosecution and don't take this class, shame on you!' were just a few of the positive comments," said Denny.
For information re: providing this course to your HIDTA, contact Caren Cambre:415-225-3400 or email@example.com