“What is a cop when he is not wearing his uniform?”
If you have heard this, chances are, you have either reported for jury duty in Denton County, or practice law in Denton County. The State routinely makes use of this in its voir dire routine. A prosecutor will coyly ask the veniremembers what a police officer is when he is not wearing his uniform. Silence. Then, with the comic timing and delivery of a cement block, the prosecutor will suggest that the officer would be both naked (haha.) and a regular person. Hilarious, I know.
The State will suggest that the purported reason for this cloying and, quite frankly, stupid, exercise is to attempt to convince the jury that police should be afforded the same level of credibility—no more nor any less—than any other witness who testified.
This is deceptive. The deception comes in the prosecution suggesting at voir dire that jurors could expect to see police testifying at trial in plain clothes (i.e. “when he is not wearing his uniform.”) First, no police officer in the history of criminal trials in Denton County, nor in any other county, has ever testified wearing anything other than his or her entire uniform. Why? Because the prosecution wants you to be reminded that this is cop, and hey, he’s more trustworthy than you or I simply by virtue of the fact that he’s wearing a uniform.
Police are the only people, to my knowledge, who routinely come testify in their uniform. I have seen doctors and medical examiners testify in suits—but never once wearing scrubs or lab-coats. I have seen folks who work at Wal-Mart or a chain restaurant testify at trial—but never once wearing their work uniform. I have seen veterans testify at trial—but never once wearing their military dress. But, for some reason, cops can’t fathom testifying in anything other than their full uniform.
The second reason this is deceptive—if not downright devious—is that police are not permitted testify in their uniforms in federal court. Why? Well, because everyone knows that there is an inherent danger in a police witness in uniform being afforded more credibility simply because he is a uniformed police officer. There is no reason for police to testify in uniform other than to improperly bolster their testimony. The State knows this. Everyone knows this.