Luke Turf of the Yuma Sun reports on the Arizona Department of Corrections’ use of polygraphy. Excerpt:
Three correctional officers at the state prison in Yuma were wrongfully disciplined because the Department of Corrections relies too heavily on polygraphs, an attorney for the employees and state Sen. Herb Guenther say.
Martin Bihn is the attorney for officers Kyle Fouts, Mario Diaz and Dennis Harkins. The case started Aug. 12, 1999, when an inmate with dried blood on his ear claimed Diaz, a sergeant at the time, slammed his head into a wall, said Bihn.
The inmate filed a complaint with the department and passed a polygraph test, Bihn said.
Diaz also took a polygraph concerning the incident and his results were inconclusive, Bihn said, while Fouts failed a polygraph as a witness to the alleged incident. Fouts was suspended without pay for 40 hours and Diaz was demoted, Bihn said.
According to Bihn, Fouts was suspended because he stuck up for Diaz and went as far as sending e-mails and memos up the chain of command to express his discontent with his co-worker’s discipline.
And Harkins, a deputy warden at the time, was demoted and relocated because he disagreed with the actions taken against Fouts and also supported his co-worker, Bihn said. Bihn said Harkins’ record was “perfect” prior to his demotion.
Diaz was ordered reinstated by the Arizona State Personnel Board, which conducts personnel hearings for state employees. But the department appealed to Yuma County Superior Court and lost, Bihn said. The department appealed the decision to the Arizona Court of Appeals, where the case stands now.
The Department of Correction’s public information officer, Rhonda Cole, said she couldn’t comment on the matter because it is still being reviewed by the Department of Justice and the state Court of Appeals.
“Until there’s a final decision, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment,” Cole said.
Guenther, a Tacna Democrat, has been following the case for about a year.
“There certainly are some irregularities,” Guenther said. “It’s just extremely unusual the amount of polygraph use in the Department of Corrections.”