One important aspect of police work is court duty. Eventually every officer will go to court to attend hearings or trials, and occasionally to testify. The extent to which you’ll find yourself in court is, to some extent, a function of your position in the department and the extent of your enforcement actions. For example traffic officers and those assigned to high enforcement units will find themselves there much more. While providing testimony at a criminal trial is rare, you never know when you’ll find yourself involved in a major felony case or high profile trial.
As an aspiring police officer, it can be interesting and enlightening to watch a public trial and get a sense of police testimony, the types of questions that are asked, the officer’s courtroom demeanor, etc. When actually visiting the courtroom isn’t feasible, technology offers an alternate way to experience a little real life Law & Order.
The proliferation of smartphones and the popularity of Twitter have given rise to a new brand of crime reporting. Many journalists covering crimes and criminal trials serve up real-time tweets of incidents, courtroom activities, and testimony as they happen, offering a ringside seat to the action.
For example, this week the trial of a stepmother charged in the death of her stepson has been going on in Texas, with Dallas Morning News reporter, Scott Goldstein (@DallasCrime), covering it moment-by-moment on Twitter. @DailyJustice140 is another source for links to Twitter coverage of high-profile court cases across the country. Additionally, Patch.com can be a source for hyper-local crime news.
If you don’t already, identify and consider following your local newspaper’s crime beat reporter on Twitter. Not only is it interesting to get their side of crime and policing in your town, but courtroom tweets can be interesting and fun to follow.