S.F. Chronicle Publishes Investigative Report into Use of CVSA by Law Enforcement Agencies

On Tuesday, 4 June 2024, the San Francisco Chronicle published a well-researched investigative article by Susie Neilson and Matthias Gafni on the use of the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) by law enforcement agencies, especially in the state of California. The article, published under the lengthy title, “It’s been called junk science as accurate as a Ouija board. Why are police agencies using this tool?” is a must-read. Excerpt:

Raymond Whitall figured the technology could help him. It was September 2017, and the 58-year-old prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison in Monterey County had accused guards of beating him without justification months earlier as he lay on the floor of the prison’s gym.

The guards said Whitall — who suffered from a chronic disease that affected his hearing and balance — had swung his cane, hitting one of their hands, and that three of them had to physically subdue him. But a prison investigator determined that Whitall’s injuries could not be explained by the guards’ account.

Then Whitall agreed to take an exam called a Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, or CVSA, that promised to analyze inaudible tremors in his voice and tell trained staff at the prison whether he was telling the truth. No one told Whitall that the device was junk science — no more accurate at lie detection than a coin flip, according to a litany of research and, at one point, its own inventor.

When Whitall’s vocal pattern indicated “deception,” the prison threw out his complaint.

For decades, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation used a pseudoscientific technology to assess prisoners’ credibility during investigations, even after researchers debunked the CVSA and after its manufacturer, NITV Federal Services, admitted that it was not capable of detecting lies, a Chronicle investigation has found.

Additionally, the newspaper identified 13 other law enforcement agencies around California — including the Berkeley Police Department, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol — that have used the CVSA to interview prospective officers as part of their hiring processes. 

Three of those agencies have also used it in criminal investigations.

Read the rest of the article here.

AntiPolygraph.org has recently reported that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is phasing out CVSA and since May of 2023 has no longer required applicants to submit to CVSA screening.

Public agencies that persist in using CVSA—a thoroughly discredited pseudoscientific fraud—need to be held accountable for their incomptence, irresponsibility, and betrayal of the public trust.

Raymond Whitall, whose complaint against prison guards was dismissed based on CVSA results, has a federal lawsuit pending, Whitall v. Gutierrez (3:18-cv-01376), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Comments 4

  • Here is a good opportunity for a class action attorney in California. There has to be a large number of inmates and CA DOC employees that were harmed by the CVSA based reading this article. Since the CA DOC has stopped using the CVSA it shows they realize it was flawed. There are numerous legal precedents against NITV in terms of the CVSA and it’s usage which are listed on this very website. NITV appears to be able to come up with the money to settle these lawsuits and still remain in business, year after year.

  • I have been unable to read the entire article from the San Francisco Chronicle since it has a subscription requirement. Perhaps a kind subscriber can post the article. I am interested in knowing if the reporters, Susie Nielson and Matthias Gafni mentioned that Charles Humble has a fake doctorate and two of his employers or agents proffered a fake white paper in a fake Ukrainian academic journal.
    Like S Khamzin, I have wondered why there has been no known class action suit since it is known by most everyone knowledgeable about the CVSA, except those working in the criminal justice system, that the CVSA is total junk with the accuracy of a flipped coin.
    Also, I have known for 15 years at least that the CVSA is an expensive con game. I wonder why it has taken so long for so many others to finally see the light?
    On a final note, I don’t think NITV is going to write a threat letter to the SF Chronicle. The letter sent to AP about five years ago was about as convincing as the CVSA.

  • Saw the direct link in other section. To get away from the paywall, go to https://archive.is/v30I5

  • NITV has been deceiving customers since the CVSA was banned in the DoD (military) arena. https://youtu.be/dsufvxgLf0g?si=xoMdBj28Tvhjg_w0&t=608

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