He received a medal for valor, following a shootout in Queens. And he seemed to have a sixth sense for finding drugs and guns. In a decade on the force, he had made, by his own count, 350 arrests.
The man, Detective Kevin Desormeau, was regarded as courageous, cunning and tireless. His supervisors within the New York Police Department heaped on such praise that in their -telling he sounded half comic-book hero.
But prosecutors now say Detective Desormeau, 34, struggled with one aspect of police work: telling the truth. After relying on Detective Desormeau’s word in hundreds of cases, prosecutors no longer believe him credible. In two cases, prosecutors have accused Detective Desormeau and his partner of making up crucial details when arresting people, even testifying about criminal activity that may never have occurred. They have said they are reviewing some of his old cases, though how many is not clear.
The two detectives were indicted earlier this year, adding to the body of evidence that police perjury and half-truths remain a persistent problem for the New York Police Department. And as more arrests and confrontations are being recorded, evidence of police falsehoods are more apparent.
The issue of false or misleading statements by the police has, on a national level, been intertwined with the issue of excessive force and the debate over whether police are too quick to shoot people, particularly black men. In cases in recent years, from Chicago to North Charleston, S.C., police officers have given accounts of fatal shootings that turn out to be at odds with what cameras captured.
Review Board Notes Rise in New York Police Officers’ False Statements MAY 14, 2015
But the phenomenon of false or misleading police statements has not been confined to high-profile cases in which officers try to justify the use of deadly force. In New York, the practice of routinely making up facts to justify a dubious arrest was entrenched enough that it got its own nickname more than 20 years ago — “testilying.”
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