7 ways to win the case before the trial begins

Never underestimate the value of officer presence on ensuring your time in court is successful

By Dupree R. Foster, P1 Contributor

Police officers spend hours preparing for court, but often overlook the power of officer presence. 

Here are seven ways for officers to win the case before the trial begins:

Don't forget officer presence when preparing for an appearance in court.
Don't forget officer presence when preparing for an appearance in court. (Photo/paed.uscourts.gov)

1. Shine your boots (or at a minimum, clean them). 
There’s nothing worse than seeing an officer walk down the aisle with a trail of dirt and mud behind them. You may have heard the excuse, “Dirty boots are the sign of a hard-working officer.” Clean, shiny boots show the defense you are a hard-working, professional officer.

2. Clean and press your uniform. 
I get it, sometimes you get to court right after clearing from directing traffic, arresting someone, or taking a burglary report, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for why you didn’t have your uniform pressed before wearing it to work – let alone court.

3. Wear your necktie. 
Most departments require officers to wear their necktie to court only if they are wearing their long-sleeve uniform shirt. Although your department may allow you to wear your short-sleeve uniform shirt to court, it doesn’t mean you should. Prepare to wear a clean, pressed, long-sleeve uniform shirt and tie to court. Oh, and keep your neck tie clean and pressed. Everyone can tell when you just pulled it out of your trunk and clipped it on right before court.

4. Be mindful of your body posture
Walk into court standing tall, with your head held high. Be relaxed yet confident as you make your way to your seat and, once there, sit up and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Now isn’t the time to start reading your reports as, that can be construed as the sign of an ill-prepared officer.

5. Carry your reports/court documents in a pad folio. 
If you have spent any time in court, I’m sure you have seen that officer who comes strolling in with one sheet of paper rolled up like a paper telescope, or with no documents at all. When you don’t happen to have any pertinent documents to bring to court, still carry a pad folio, as this exudes the appearance of a well prepared officer.

6. Be well groomed. 
Ladies, ensure your hair is well kept and gentlemen, ensure your hair is well trimmed. Most trials, if not all, typically start well before 5 p.m. so there should be no excuse for a “5 o’clock shadow.”

7. Make eye contact. 
Be sure to make eye contact with each person you are addressing, whether the judge or attorney. Look at them as they are speaking to you and not down at the floor or at your notes. Making eye contact shows you are confident and certain of what you are saying.

Remember, just as we size people up, people do the same to us. Strive to win the case before the trial begins by following these seven ways to enhance and take advantage of your officer presence in court.

About the Author
Dupree R. Foster is a police officer in Virginia and has over 15 years of public safety experience to include training, evaluating and mentoring police officers, EMTs and other public safety professionals.

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