January 29, 2019

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Being Prepared for Court

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement officers and it deals with courtroom testimony. 

Just like an exam in school, the more you prepare to testify, the more confident your testimony will be.

If your training academy was anything like mine, there may have been very little discussion on courtroom testimony. Or you may have observed a mock or actual trial as part of your academy training. Either way, by the time you approached the witness stand for the first time you were probably a bundle of nerves.  

Courtroom testimony is an important part of our jobs. If you don’t present as a credible and prepared professional, even a strong case may fail. I’ve known many officers who dread testifying. They might be uncomfortable speaking in public or intimidated by the courtroom and the witness stand. We all feel that way. No one likes having their observations and actions picked apart. It can be an uncomfortable and lonely feeling. When you are unprepared or unclear on important details, it will be a long day. But if you properly prepare for court, you can minimize your anxiety and be more effective. 

It is important to write a good report. Times, places, names, and things you saw, heard, and did is a good start. But, to improve your report, consider asking yourself, “How would I attack this if I was a defense attorney?” Be your own devil’s advocate. 

Prepare yourself to testify. Read your report thoroughly as soon as you receive the trial subpoena. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Make sure you have enough time to review your report and check for any evidence you might need. How will you clarify any issues that needed follow-up investigation?  

Think back to remember the scene. Try to recall the details of the event.  

If possible, you should consider meeting with the prosecutor before you testify. Pre-trial meetings with the prosecutor can help you to know exactly what you recall and don’t recall. The prosecutor should identify and discuss areas upon which the defense may focus. If you have a good idea about where the defense may go, and you’ve already discussed a courtroom strategy, your stress level can stay low 

Just like an exam in school, the more you prepare to testify, the more confident you can be in the answers you’ll give. The defense and prosecutors have prepared for your testimony in the courtroom. Don’t be the only one in the room who’s completely unprepared.    

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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