Philadelphia Police Department to Re-Institute Pre-Employment Polygraph Screening

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey

WTFX Fox 29 Philadelphia reports that beginning this spring, Philadelphia Police Department applicants will be subjected to polygraph screening:

In the past two years we’ve seen a lot of Philadelphia police officers fired and criminally charged for cases of theft, assault, and drug dealer shake-downs.

So now, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is turning to an old tool to weed out potential bad apples.

On Tuesday, Ramsey confirmed to Fox 29 that starting this spring, all recruits headed for training at the police academy’s next class will undergo a lie detector or polygraph test.

Ramsey says polygraph tests will be administer [sic] to the 125 candidates for the next police recruit class in addition to the physical, psychological and written tests.

Ramsey has already upped the age limit to 21, and he now will require three years of driving experience and 60 college credits for recruits.

He acknowledges with more that 20 cops fired or arrested in the past two years, he’s looking for ways to improve the caliber of cops that join the department.

Philadelphia police used to undergo polygraph tests years ago, but the practice was halted back in 2003 by Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

Ramsey will hire a private firm to conduct the tests. The cost of the tests is about $150 per recruit.

Polyrapgh [sic] tests are not admissible in court, and there are clearly lots of critics of lie detector tests.

Ramsey believes the psychological test, the polygraph test and background checks that will now be done by internal affairs detectives will give the department advanced indicators that a particular candidate my not be fit to join the ranks.

He says he committed to cleaning up the department.

As of the time of this post, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Hiring Process page has not been updated to reflect the new polygraph requirement.

While the polygraph requirement should provide a nice cash flow to the as-yet-un-named company that is awarded the contract to screen applicants, it won’t necessarily result in a cleaner police department. Polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis. Because it is inherently biased against the truthful, and yet easily passed through the use of simple countermeasures that anyone can learn, the new polygraph requirement could have the unintended consequence of screening out the most honest and conscientious applicants while allowing the dishonest to pass through.

FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby

A question for Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 president John McNesby, who according to Fox 29 favors the polygraph requirement and says it “is a useful tool to weed out potential problem officers for the future”: If polygraphs are so great, why limit them to new recruits? After all, it’s seasoned officers who have been having corruption problems. So why not enact mandatory periodic polygraph screening for all Philadelphia P.D. officers?

Comments 8

  • Welcome to Philadelphia, where people die in fires because of budget problems/cutbacks, but we find money to waste on this. I think we should subject ALL public employees to exorcism because, as we all know, Demonic Possesion is the cause of all the corruption and stupidity in city government. After the exorcisms, we call in witch doctors to shake rattles and chicken feet to identify the crooks in places like PHA, City Council, and the school board. Last, we call in a Faith Healer (remember Rev. Ike?) to fix everything.

  • I’m one of these new recruits, was born and raised in a loving Christian family. I”ve never committed a serious crime in my life nor consumed any illegal drug. I took the polygraph and apparently failed because I was lying about my drug involvment and crimnal activity. I had no opinion on polygraphs before today and now wholeheartedly believe they are a waste of time and taxpayer money…

    • you didn’t lie, a machine, and it behoves me, that human beings are so unintelligent, to depend on some machine to tell them if the candidate is lying. It does not, what it does, and all it does is measure heart rate and sweet on your finger tips, which doesn’t prove that the candidate is lying. And yes, they are a waste of time…..but departments would apparently rather rely on a machine then physically doing a thorough background check and contacting refrences?????

    • there are officers who will not believe you, unfortunately, b/c they’ve never had a problem with the polygraph, but I’m sorry to say, the longer your a cop, the harder it is to pass the polygraph for some, b/c of what they’ve seen and experienced. Remember, it is not a lie detection, what it does, is, only measure a response to the question by heart rate, or sweating….this is an insult to the intelligence of human beings…a total and utterly insane way of weeding out candidates, since there are ways to beat the polygraph. So, keep on trying….and do the best you can…and don’t let any irate police officer who has never failed the polygraph, intimidate you, for until it happens to them, they have no clue.
      a ploygraph intimidates and places fear in a lot of people testing, and if it were not so, why then, are they not submissable in court?

  • @Victor Cortez
    also also took the test and failed on the same questions.. never did a drug or committed a crime!

  • I think its a nice gesture to try to weed out the bad apples with a lie detector test however this is a wasteful and unreliable method. I believe the way to go is to punish those who are entrusted with this delicate but powerful position appropriately. If a person knows that they can do a crime and most likely get awaywith it or given a slap on the wrist then of course the corrupt will try. If these cops are actually punished maybe even harder than regular criminals then i can almost guarantee there will be less ”bad apples”.

    • I know of a department, who actually lowered to drug question from 5 years, to 3 years, just so they could hire minorities….does that give you some idea of how our systems are falling towards the wayside. If Philly cops are corrupt, and being fired for being so, that speaks volumns of how thorough they were doing background checks during the hiring process.

  • I failed in 1996, 3x’s. I was already working as a cop for another department.
    In hindsight it was a blessing, looking at the city now with former John Street and now Michael Nutter at the helm and having family that are cops who are stuck in the city. The city is a shit hole and getting worse by the day. I got hired at another department in NJ made more money and less crap, left there in 2010 when I was offered the opportunity to work for a private firm. I now work as a “consultant” and make about the same as a philly captain. I live in rural PA and my kids go to a great school. I don’t lock my doors at night and we have no police department , only state police coverage. My 3.5 acres would and 6 bedroom house ($3500 yr in taxes) would be the price of a decent house in Somerton. Chances are I would have never made captain. So If I would have been hired I would have 19 years in now and still be pushing a sector car. I would be stuck in an over priced house in the far northeast and my kids would have to go to a shitty school unless I want to pay for private school (with all those big bucks I would be earning). Lincoln and Frankford used to be good high schools, but not anymore.
    The city can stuff their polygraph and residency requirements up their asses.
    Lots of guys considering working for Philly are young (like I was and right out of the military) and no kids, but one day they will have a family and the neighborhoods aren’t fit to live in anymore. With all of the opportunities in law enforcement, why would anyone want to work there?
    My friend left the department a few years ago and got hired in Florida. He drives his patrol car home and lives in a nice condo, The land lord charges him 1/2 rent because he brings home his car and parks it in front of his place. He makes the same as an entry level philly cop and much lower cost of living.
    anyway that’s my 2 cents.

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