Mark Dadigan reports for the Vero Beach Press Journal. Excerpt:
The pace of your heartbeats quickens, your breaths deepen and beads of sweat slide down your skin.
According to some law-enforcement circles, you’ve probably just lied.
Since the 1930s, polygraphs, or lie-detector tests, which theoretically link physiological changes to honesty, have been used as investigative tools in guiding detectives to suspects and eventual arrests.
However, the accuracy of these tests is the subject of much debate — some detectives swear by the tests while critics proclaim lie detectors as nothing but “pseudoscience.”
“It’s simply an investigative tool,” said Lt. Dan Cook of the Vero Beach Police Department, which uses the polygraph tests. “It helps us key on an area of question where a subject might not be truthful. Normally, to be honest, it’s very accurate.”
The computer voice stress analysis test, which correlates the amount of stress in a voice recording to the truthfulness of the speaker, came under scrutiny from within the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office after Detective Jim Hyde was suspended for five days last month, partially because he failed a voice test, according to Sheriff’s Office records.
Hyde was being interviewed because an inmate accused Hyde of assaulting him, and it was the stress of dealing with the allegation that led to the poor test results, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office uses the voice stress tests as a tool as the police use the polygraphs, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Joe Flescher, and subjects applicants to the tests.
“It’s a very useful tool, especially when people say they have vague memories of the past,” Flescher said.
But there are those against the use of the tests even in internal investigations. “It’s ridiculous that a disciplinary action would be taken on an officer based on those tests,” said George W. Matschke [sic], cofounder of an Internet-based group Antipoly- graph.org, which lobbies for the abolishment of the test by law-enforcement and other agencies.