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.
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?