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.