May 5, 2015

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Preparing for a Deposition

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. And Today’s Tip deals with your preparation for a civil deposition.

Do not let this informal setting lull you into complacency. Everything you say in a depo can be presented to the jury.

You are getting sued over a use of force incident and you get notified that your deposition will be taken in the near future. Like most officers, you figure, “No big deal, I testify in criminal court all the time.” That attitude can have grave consequences for you and your agency.

A deposition is testimony given under oath in an informal setting. Depos are usually conducted at one of the attorney’s offices with only the attorneys, plaintiffs, court reporter and sometimes a videographer present.  Do not let this informal setting lull you into complacency. Everything you say in a depo can be presented to the jury.

Formally, depositions are part of the discovery process. The reality, though, is the depo is an opportunity for the opposing attorney to ask any question on practically any topic related to the case. There is no judge present so, in most instances, even if your attorney objects on the record, you will still have to answer the question. You will likely be question in great detail about the minutiae of the case. It’s not unusual to for plaintiff’s attorney to repeatedly ask you slight variations of the same question. Every word of your deposition testimony will be scrutinized by plaintiffs attorney’s for inconsistencies and omissions from any previous testimony, oral interviews or written reports. 

Thorough preparation is the key to success at a deposition. Don’t just read your report and hope for the best. Know your policies. Know your training. Know your force laws. Finally, know the facts of the case inside and out. Thinking that because you did a good job on the street and handled the incident within policy, law, and training that you will be automatically vindicated by the jury is a recipe for disaster.

My friend George Williams has written a book that goes into much greater detail on this topic, “Preparing for Your Civil Deposition: A Guide for the Law Enforcement Professional.” Pick it up. It may save your career.

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

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