Dee J. Hall reports for the Wisconson State Journal that “Dr.” E. Gary Baker, the faux Ph.D. who markets what he styles a “Digital Voice Stress Analyzer” to law enforcement agencies, has lost the Jefferson, Wisconsin Police Department as a customer:
Jefferson police cancel training on voice-stress analyzer
By DEE J. HALL
The city of Jefferson Police Department has cancelled a training session on how to use a controversial voice-stress analyzer after the Wisconsin State Journal raised questions about the technology and the qualifications of the business owner scheduled to conduct the training.
Voice-stress analysis is used by some law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, to detect “microtremors” in the voice that backers of the technology say indicates speakers are stressed and therefore answering questions deceptively.
“If everything has been exhausted in investigative techniques and they have a suspect or someone they want to eliminate as a suspect, it (CVSA) has been used,” Madson said, adding that the technology has prompted confessions from suspects. “The tool works, as far as I’m concerned.”
Detective Sergeant Tim Madson is badly misinformed. The existing peer reviewed research suggests that voice stress analyzers perform at roughly chance levels of accuracy. While these devices might be useful for scaring confessions out of naive and gullible persons, they have no scientific basis and are no more to be relied upon than a colander wired to a photocopier with a sheet of paper saying “He’s Lying” on the glass paten.
Until 2007, the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation also used voice-stress analysis to interrogate suspects, DOJ spokesman Bill Cosh said.
However, some recent government-backed studies have concluded that the technology isn’t reliable, with one researcher likening the ability of voice-stress analysis to detect deception as no more accurate than “flipping a coin.”
Jefferson Police Chief Gary Bleecker said Wednesday he decided to cancel the weeklong training session, which had been scheduled for June, after the State Journal raised questions about whether the DVSA works. The newspaper also raised questions about E. Gary Baker, a Cape Canaveral, Fla. businessman who markets the Baker DVSA.
Baker uses the title “Dr.” in his promotional materials. Until 2005, Baker’s Web site said he held “earned degrees of Master of Arts in Religious Counseling and Doctor of Philosophy in Theocentric Business and Ethics from American College of Metaphysical Theology.”
Since the group AntiPolygraph.org revealed that the American College of Metaphysical Theology of Golden Valley, Minn., sells PhDs for $249 over the Internet, Baker no longer mentions the college on his Web site. But he continues to tout his “doctor of philosophy” degree on www.bakerdvsa.com.
Baker declined to talk to the State Journal, saying in an e-mail that his Web site “contains all information we care to release to non-law enforcement persons.”
Results of such testing aren’t allowed as evidence in court but are used as a “last-resort” investigative tool, said Detective Sgt. Tim Madson of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, whose department uses Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA). The cancelled training at the Jefferson Police Department was for a similar but less expensive technology, the Digital Voice Stress Analyzer (DVSA).
For more about the provenance of E. Gary Baker’s “doctoral degree,” see the discussion thread Baker Digital Voice Stress Analyzer (DVSA) on the AntiPolygraph.org message board. It should be noted that the man behind “Computerized Voice Stress Analysis,” Charles Humble, who also operates out of Florida, is also a phony Ph.D., as has been documented by Brian Ross of ABC News:
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Dee J. Hall continues:
Bleecker said when one of his detectives notified Baker that Jefferson had decided to cancel the $1,500-a-head training, Baker reportedly replied, “Okay.”
“Baker didn’t ask (why),” Bleecker said. “That’s kind of funny. You think he’d ask why. You’d think he’d say, ‘What’s the story?’ That’s a telling sign to me.”
Bleecker said he’s most bothered by Baker’s use of the title “Dr.”
“It raises a lot of questions in my mind,” the chief said, adding, “At this point, I don’t think we need to be involved with something like that (DVSA) with Dr. Baker.”
Cosh said the state justice department stopped using voice-stress analysis after 10 years because of dwindling demand for it by its own agents and other agencies. When it came time to fork out more money for updated training in 2007, he said, the department decided to discontinue it.
“We did use it on our cases, but it was very infrequently,” Cosh said. “By the end, we were using it on about one case a year.”
An article in the 2008 National Institute of Justice Journal summarized findings of an NIJ-funded study about voice-stress analysis technology, finding it correctly indicated deception or truth among drug users just half the time — “no better than flipping a coin.”
The study by Kelly Damphousse and other researchers at the Okahoma Department of Mental Health and Sustance Abuse Services found that the technology correctly detected lies about drug use by more than 300 arrestees just 15 percent of the time, based on contemporaneous urine testing. Another 8.5 percent of respondents who were telling the truth were incorrectly classified as being deceptive, the study found.
However, the study’s authors concluded that the mere presence of voice-stress testing appeared to prompt more people to tell the truth.
“We did find … that arrestees who were questioned using the VSA instruments were less likely to lie about illicit drug use compared to arrestees whose responses were recorded by the interviewer with pen and paper,” Damphousse wrote in the National Institute of Justice Journal.
Bleecker said his department is out the $1,500 it paid to train one of its officers on the DVSA. The detective’s training class included officers from the Everest, Twin Lakes, Milwaukee, Pulaski, Platteville and Silver Lake police departments, he said.
Shorewood Police Chief David Banaszynski, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said he doesn’t know how widespread use of voice-stress analysis technology is.
“We do not use the machine, and I really don’t know of anyone in this area that does,” said the suburban Milwaukee police chief.
Said Bleecker: “We’re not going to use it (DVSA). It just leads us down a road that we don’t want to be on.”
Chief Bleecker has made a commendable call. Others who have in the past been deceived by the emperor’s-new-clothes technology of voice analysis should follow his example.