“The Truth About the Polygraph”

Veteran polygrapher Theodore Paul Ponticelli writes in Justice: Denied — The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted. Although a supporter of polygraphic interrogation, Ponticelli offers pointed criticism of the polygraph community. Excerpt:

The American Polygraph Association (APA) in all appearance should be the watchdog of the industry, but it is no more than a trade association with minimal standards as to what a polygraph school should teach. The APA scratches the surface with school inspections and student review. As a matter of fact, the APA was denied authority by the Department of Education for academically accrediting polygraph schools, therefore, the APA possesses little or no authority to endorse a post-secondary educational institution.

The Federal Government has a polygraph examiner school. They train most federal agents from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement, Defense Intelligence Agency and Military Investigative agencies. During 1970, this author participated in the government’s school course that was being systems engineered. Every potential student would receive the same scientifically standard training in order to maintain a high degree of reliability and validity. Since 1995 the school has liberalized its curriculum and does not seem concerned with graduates who return to their agencies and change the procedures without the benefit of scientific research. What was once known as a model school has now sunk to the low depths of academia.

Ironically, those polygraph examiners from federal and municipal law enforcement agencies hide behind their badges and want the public to believe in their accuracies, which isn’t the case. The majority of law enforcement polygraph examiners lack intellectual soundness and knowledge of human behavior as related to detecting deception. In addition, most presuppose a person’s guilt with lack of probable cause and tangible evidence. As an example, if a woman reported to the police that her estranged husband molested their child, law enforcement has been known to fail to investigate or attempt to prove or disprove the allegation made by the complainant. The estranged husband would then be administered a polygraph test and the results of the test become spurious in many cases. As another example, if a detective informs the polygraph examiner that the suspect is good for the crime, in many cases the polygraph results will be reported as deceptive. Why? Many reasons, although the first is dishonesty or incompetence. The same degree of incompetence in polygraph exists in the private sector and the reason is the same, inferior training and lack of integrity.

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