LAPD Chief Bratton Says 40% of Disqualified Applicants Eliminated by Polygraph

Los Angeles Chief of Police William J. Bratton this week stated that 40% of LAPD applicants who are disqualified are eliminated because of the polygraph. Bratton spoke on the 17 April 2006 installment of 89.3 KPCC radio’s Patt Morrison show, which features a regular “Ask the Chief” session in which Chief Bratton addresses questions by host Patt Morrison as well as members of the public who call in. One topic addressed was the LAPD’s recruiting difficulties (Hat tip to Kevin Roderick who mentioned this in his LA Observed blog):

Patt Morrison: A propos of recruiting, is there just a different population pool out there than there was maybe when you started policing? Is it because people have tattoos or they’ve had drug experiments? In the 1940s, if you had an overdue library book, Bill Parker would not hire you for the LAPD.

Bill Bratton: No, I think the issue’s different here than East Coast. East Coast, Massachusetts, New York, you cannot use polygraphs as part of your background screening. Here we use polygraphs. That accounts for about 40% of the failures of personnel.

The audio stream is available on-line here. The above exchange begins at about 23 minutes and 10 seconds into the segment.

While the polygraph may account for 40% of total disqualifications, it should also be noted that approximately 50% percent of LAPD applicants who make it as far along in the hiring process as the polygraph are branded as liars and disqualified. But as the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded, polygraph screening is completely invalid. AntiPolygraph.org hears regularly from LAPD applicants who report having been the victim of false positive polygraph outcomes. It is clear that many qualified applicants are being wrongly rejected. LAPD could and should alleviate its recruiting difficulties by scrapping the polygraph. As Chief Bratton noted, it’s not used in his home state of Massachusetts (where it is wisely prohibited by law).

It should also be noted that in 2004, Chief Bratton denied a California Public Records Act request for documentation concerning specific and credible allegations of corruption involving the head of LAPD’s polygraph unit, Mr. Roy Ortiz, who is also a member of the American Polygraph Association’s Board of Directors.

For related reading on the LAPD polygraph program, see George Maschke’s 2001 Los Angeles Daily News op-ed piece, LAPD Polygraphs Don’t Tell Full Truth. A list of the questions asked on the LAPD’s pre-employment polygraph examination is available here.

California Judge Suggests Apple Computer Should Have Used Lie Detectors to Find Leaker

Thumbs down to California Court of Appeal Associate Justice Franklin D. Elia, who yesterday suggested that Apple Computer, which is seeking access to e-mail archives that could help identify an employee believed to have leaked trade secrets, should have done due diligence by subjecting its employees to lie detector testing to find the leaker.

Matthew Honan reports in Macworld:

Noting that Apple had neither subjected its employees to a lie detector test, nor had them deposed under oath in order to find the guilty party, Elia also speculated as to the court’s role in the case.

“All you want is the name of the—excuse me—the snitch,” said Elia. “We are not here to be the super personnel committee for your company.”

To begin with, lie detectors don’t work. Moreover, under the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act, private employers, like Apple Computer, may not compel their employees to submit to such pseudoscientific nonsense. Judge Elia should know better.

Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examiner Handbook

Federal PDD Examiner Handbook

On 11 April 2006, AntiPolygraph.org posted the U.S. federal government’s official polygraph handbook, formally titled the Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examiner Handbook (1mb PDF) dated 1 March 2004. A discussion of this document is available on the AntiPolygraph.org message board here.

In addition, we also made available a Department of Defense Polygraph Institute instructional document dated August 2004 outlining DoDPI’s “Numerical Evaluation Scoring System” (188kb PDF). A discussion of this document is available on the AntiPolygraph.org message board here.