A deposition is a court proceeding used to obtain evidence prior to trial. Either party to a lawsuit may take a deposition to find out what the other side, or any witness knows about the case. In a deposition, the party or witness is asked questions under oath. The person being deposed, called the deponent, is required to answer questions orally. Everything said during a deposition is recorded by a court reporter who then provides a transcript of the deposition. The parties may use this transcript at trial. Police officers may be deposed like any other witness.
Educate yourself. Before deposing a police officer, it is essential to obtain and review all of the paperwork he prepared relevant to the case. These documents include arrest reports and other police reports and any witness statements. Carefully review these documents and prepare follow-up questions about anything you don't understand.
Prepare your strategy. Is the officer a party to the case or a witness? If the officer you are planning to depose is simply a witness to the occurrence, you will focus most of your questions on what the officer saw. If the officer is a defendant in the case who is accused of wrongdoing, your strategy will be different. You will want to prepare questions that will help you prove that the officer violated the law or failed to comply with department rules and policies.
Obtain background information. Before asking questions about the occurrence that is the subject of the lawsuit, ask the officer about her work history and professional background, including how long she has been a police officer and for what police departments she has worked. You may also want to ask about the officer's education and training if it is relevant to the case.
Ask about the occurrence. Take the officer through what happened in chronological order. Ask the officer what he did, what he saw, and why he took certain actions. Obtain as many details as possible, giving the officer an opportunity to tell you everything he remembers about the incident.
Review the paperwork with the deponent. The deposition of a police officer is a good opportunity to learn about the purpose and contents of police department records. Have the officer explain any police department paperwork that she prepared. Mark the reports as exhibits and ask the officer to explain when and why she prepared each document.
Adele Nicholas is a writer in Chicago. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to publications including Corporate Legal Times, ChicagoMag.com and InsideCounsel magazine. Nicholas holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.