SDPD Adds Questions About Hate Crimes and Biases to Pre-Employment Polygraph Process, Acknowledges 50% Failure Rate

Left to right: Captain Rudy Tai, Assistant Chief Keith Lucas, Lieutenant Steve Waldheim

At a meeting of the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee held on 16 June 2021, Captain Rudy Tai of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) mentioned that the pre-employment polygraph screening process now includes questioning about hate crimes and racial bias. As part of a “Recruitment and Retention Update” Tai told the committee:

As far as our polygraph update, what we notice is we meet with our polygraphers—our polygraphers are in-house—we meet with them once a quarter, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. As we see issues coming up nationwide, take for example we wanted to make sure we were capturing questions in the polygraph that have to do with hate incidents, hate crimes, any biases a person may have, any associations they may have—on social media—make sure we capture that within the polygraph process.

San Diego Councilman Raul Campillo

In response, Councilmember Raul Campillo asked:

I do have a question about the one slide put—about the steps that go through—the polygraph test. I’m just curious what questions are asked on the polygraph test.

SDPD Lieutenant Steve Waldheim responded without actually disclosing precisely what questions are asked:

So, regarding the polygraph, they ask a plethora of questions. So, they actually break it down into four different categories, and they break it down into drugs, serious crimes, again what we added there was pertaining to any uh racial uh anything to that, that uh basically any bias, things like that, so they ask just about anything and everything on the polygraph. So they cover a lot. Usually it takes at least two hours to go over with a polygrapher, um, and they ask just about everything. And they reiterate, again, with our background detectives, we meet with them before, and we have pre-polygraph interview with the background detective. They go over all the questions, again, and they are getting asked on the pre-investigative questionnaire and the personal history statement. So we ask just about everything. And then they confirm that on the polygraph with them hooked up on the machine.

Councilmember Campillo responded:

Okay. Understood. I’m glad to hear that issues of the bias, it, whether they’re racial, social, gender, of all sorts, I, I, I’m glad to hear that. It’s a concern of mine, and we’ve be—know we want to continue to, to find and prevent folks who do have those sorts of biases from being able to be part of law enforcement just because of how much—how important the role is in criminal justice. I was gonna ask if—when we have a police officer transfer from a different department, from a different agency, maybe I should say, into SDPD, do they go through that same polygraph test as well?

To which Lt. Waldheim replied:

Yes sir, they do. They all go through the same polygraph. They all go through the same background investigation.

On 20 June 2021, co-founder George Maschke wrote to Councilmember Raul Campillo regarding the inadequacy of Lieutenant Steve Walheim’s reply and asked, among other things, whether he would support polygraph screening of applicants for employment with the San Diego city attorney’s office (his former employer):

Dear Councilmember Campillo,

I write for, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to polygraph policy reform. I listened with interest to the discussion of polygraph policy at last week’s meeting of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee and am preparing to publish an article that will quote your question about that.

At that meeting, you expressed satisfaction with Lt. Steve Waldheim’s reply that the police department’s polygraph screening process includes questions about racial bias. However, Lt. Waldheim actually dodged your question with generalities. You had asked him what questions are asked on the polygraph test. He didn’t actually tell you what questions are asked. published the precise questions asked on the SDPD pre-employment polygraph examination two years ago:

It appears that the question, “Have you ever committed any serious crime?” remains unchanged, with the exception that its scope, which is discussed with the subject during the pre-test phase, has been expanded to include hate crimes (which it previously did not). The following SDPD graphic shows the areas that were previously covered by this question:

A question not raised at last week’s meeting is whether SDPD should be relying on polygraph screening at all. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs and found polygraph screening to be completely invalid and advised against its use by federal agencies.

You should also be aware that polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that anyone can learn and that polygraph operators cannot detect. You’ll find such countermeasures explained in Ch. 4 of our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

In view of polygraphy’s scientific shortcomings, do you support the SDPD’s reliance on it to screen applicants? If so, why?

And if you do support the SDPD’s use of polygraphs on applicants, would you also support a polygraph screening requirement for those seeking employment with the city attorney’s office? If not, why not?

I will be happy to address any questions you may have regarding the foregoing.


George W. Maschke, Ph.D.
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp)
Wire: @ap_org
Twitter: @ap_org

Councilmember Campillo did not resond to our inquiry.

San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn

At the same meeting, Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn asked about attrition in the hiring process, in response to which Lt. Waldheim stated:

…a little over 50% fail the written exam, then 15% will fail the physical aspect, then when it comes to the PIQ, the pre-investigative questionnaire, we lose about half of them at that step, because then they’ll be disqualified for some reason or another… Then our polygraph examination, we lose about 50% on that aspect. However, even though we lose fifty percent, the majority of the failures actually have new disclosures, which then tells us that the polygraph test is doing its job, catching people in a lie.

The 50% pre-employment polygraph failure rate mentioned by Waldheim is not unusual among governmental agencies with a pre-employment polygraph screening requirement. Given that polygraphy has no scientific basis, it is inevitable that many honest applicants are being falsely branded as liars and wrongly disqualified from employment.

Waldheim’s claim that the majority of those who fail make “new disclosures” should not be uncritically accepted. Polygraph operators are typically rated on the basis of their confession rates after a failed “test.” They are thus incentivized both to seek admissions and to amplify their significance.

Waldheim’s use of the weasel words “new disclosures” suggests that not all such disclosures are necessarily admissions to having lied on the polygraph.

Coercion Alleged in Riverside County, CA Polygraph Interrogation

North County Times staff writer Tim Mayer reports in an article titled, “Fogelstrom said investigators deceived them” that the Riverside County (California) Sheriff’s Department conducted a coercive polygraph examination of a minor under false pretenses. Excerpt:

CARLSBAD —- The father of the teenage companion of 17-year-old Eric Sears —- who was found dead in Joshua Tree National Park last month —- said Thursday that investigators have presented a concoction of events and statements involving his son that are either false or taken out of context.

“They coerced, badgered and intimidated Ben until he didn’t know what he was saying,” said Joe Fogelstrom, the father of Ben Fogelstrom, 17.

“I feel like a sucker. Our kid trusted us, and we put him in the hands of these (investigator) guys.”

Fogelstrom said an affidavit released Monday by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was based in part on a polygraph exam of his young son that was obtained under false pretenses. The affidavit was used to obtain a warrant to search their Carlsbad home.

Fogelstrom said the polygraph exam was done without parents or an attorney present.

No charges have been filed against Ben and law enforcement officers have said he is not a suspect, but investigators said in the affidavit that they were looking into the possibility that Eric had been murdered.

Fogelstrom said he, his wife, Valerie, and Ben drove to San Bernardino on July 18 at the request of investigators who told them they had found items in the desert that they needed Ben to identify.

But when the family arrived, investigators suggested that a polygraph test of Ben might help him remember more of the incident, the father said.

During the exam, Fogelstrom said he was told, Ben would “create the questions to ask so maybe it would jolt Ben’s memory about which direction Eric went.”

“The polygraph (idea) seemed weird, but I said anything we can do to help as long as Ben has a say in it and his mom’s there,” Fogelstrom said. “Well, Ben didn’t have a say in it and his mom wasn’t there.”

As it turned out, Fogelstrom said that after he left, Ben was taken into another room, where he was questioned for about four hours, and his mother was left in the locked reception area unable to go to her son. Fogelstrom said he left to drive a pair of neighborhood kids back to Carlsbad.

Fogelstrom said his wife reported that by the time she was allowed to see Ben again, “he was crying, he was upset, he was traumatized.”

“He told Valerie, ‘They made me say stuff, Mom. They made me say stuff that wasn’t true.'”

“We believed them and we trusted them,” Fogelstrom said. “They used that trust to get Ben in a back room to interrogate him, to just hammer him.”

“I-580 Sniper Suspect Set to Take Lie Detector Test”

Lisa Fernandez reports for the San Jose Mercury News. Excerpt:

The man accused of but never charged with being the prime suspect in a string of Feb. 23 shootings along Interstate 580 in the East Bay has agreed to take a polygraph test, hoping to show he wasn’t responsible, his public defender said.

Matt Bockmon, who represents Chris Gafford on unrelated drug charges, said Tuesday that during a federal court hearing last week, prosecutors announced that if Gafford passed the lie detector test next Tuesday it could have a “positive impact” on “another case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Bender said he told the judge the test would “make the resolution simpler” of a federal drug case that is officially unrelated to the shootings. Bender wouldn’t talk about what would happen if Gafford failed the test, or about the inadmissibility of a lie detector test as evidence in court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Bender should know better than to place any reliance on the outcome of a pseudoscientific lie detector test. His willingness to do so casts doubt on his fitness for the job.

73% Polygraph Failure Rate Reported for Yolo County, California Sheriff’s Office Applicants

Davis Enterprise staff writer Elisabeth Sherwin reports in an article titled, “Sheriff Prieto pushes high standards.” Excerpt:

[Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto] said 15 people interviewed recently to become deputy sheriffs. As part of the screening process, candidates are routinely given polygraph tests. Out of the 15 who took the test, only four passed and maybe one will be hired, he said.

San Diego Police Department Polygraph Failure Rate Pegged at 40%

In an article titled, “Long arm of the law reaches out for help,” San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Shanna McCord reports on the SDPD pre-employment polygraph failure rate. Excerpt:

And then there’s a lie detector test, which weeds out a large number of applicants.

“Number one for us is honesty,” said Stacee Botsford, a recruiter for the San Diego Police Department, which operates with 2,100 sworn officers. “We can’t take anyone who lies or tells half-truths or omits information.”

Botsford says 40 percent of San Diego police applicants – 2,300 a year for about 100 to 150 openings – fail the lie detector test.

Victims/Suspects in Arson-Homicide Case Refuse Polygraph

Pasadena (California) Star News staff writer Emmanuel Parker reports in an article titled, “Fatal fire in 200[0] remains unsolved.” Excerpt:

ALTADENA — Sometimes the simplest crimes are the hardest to solve. So it is with the death of Justine Marie Kaposy, 14, a popular Rose City High School student burned beyond recognition on December 3, 2000, in a house fire in the 1700 block of Oxford Avenue.

Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives labeled the fire an arson and Justine’s death a homicide. But 18 months after her death, no one has been charged or arrested and, as one investigator put it, the case “is not going anyplace.”

“The mother, brother and Justine were the only ones present,” when the fire destroyed the house, Sgt. Rich Longshore said. Mother and son escaped with minor injuries, Justine didn’t.

“We know it was not an accidental fire. One of those three started it. One of them is dead and the other two are not cooperating with law enforcement,” he said.

The case stalled after detectives asked Emily Marie Kaposy, 47, the mother, and her son, Sean Kaposy, 12, to take polygraph tests. They initially agreed.

“But they never showed up or called and since then we haven’t been able to contact them,” Longshore said. “We can’t force them to take the tests, which are not admissible as evidence in California courts.”

Justine’s father, Paul Kaposy, 51, said after detectives requested the tests he consulted an attorney who said they shouldn’t submit.

He added the family is indignant that the detectives treated Sean as a suspect.

“They questioned him and my wife the night of the fire at the Altadena Sheriff’s Station. They separated them and were trying to get Sean to admit he started the fire. He was devastated. He left the station crying,” said Kaposy, who said he advised them not to take the tests.

“My son didn’t have anything to do with the fire,” he added. “The kid risked his life trying to save his sister.

“I told the detectives `If you’ve got a case, make it,’ ” Kaposy said. “I assume they were just fishing and really had nothing to go on.”

Guilty or innocent, anyone suspected of a crime is well advised to refuse to submit to any polygraph interrogation. The “test” is little more than a pretext for interrogating a suspect without a lawyer. If you are ever asked to submit to a polygraph “test” with regard to a criminal investigation (whether or not you’ve been told you’re a suspect), be sure to read Chapter 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector first.

“McKinney Polygraph an Issue: In Defending Malpractice Suit, His Ex-Lawyers May Say They Think He Flunked It”

John McDonald reports for the Orange County [California] Register on the $10,000,000 lawsuit brought by a man who spent 19 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder. Excerpt:

The two Orange County public defenders who represented DeWayne McKinney on murder charges say they kept secret for 20 years their belief that he flunked a lie-detector test.

A federal judge ruled Monday that they can testify about the polygraph at a civil trial in order to counter McKinney’s assertion that the county’s legal malpractice led to his wrongful incarceration for 19 years.

The lawyers representing McKinney in his lawsuit against the county dispute the charge that he flunked the lie-detector test, saying their expert found the results inconclusive.

McKinney was convicted in 1982 of the murder of a Burger King manager in Orange, but he was released in January 2000 after a convicted robber incriminated another man in the slaying and some eyewitnesses said they now believe the other man was the killer.

Norman Watkins, lawyer for the county, argued in court that the lie-detector test is crucial for the public defenders’ case. Watkins said that in 1998, Holmes believed the polygraph was a critical obstacle to McKinney ever being freed from prison.

Holmes obtained a promise from Strople to keep the polygraph results secret so that a new investigation could be launched with the goal to free McKinney, Watkins said. Holmes has declined to comment because the suit is pending.

Taylor said he is uncertain whether he will allow the jury to see the actual polygraph results, but that Holmes and Strople may need to tell the jury of its existence and their belief that he flunked the test in order to defend themselves.

No competent attorney should place any reliance whatsoever on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, and any who does should be held liable for any resultant harm.

Los Angeles Considering Sex Offender Polygraphs

Stuart Pfeifer of the Los Angeles Times reports on the monitoring of sex offenders in “O.C. to Track Sex Criminals With GPS.” Excerpt:

Authorities said the tracking and lie detector tests represent powerful deterrents for offenders and could also tip off police to crimes the probationers might commit. “It is a controversial issue for us. But our primary concern is the protection of the community,” said Bill Daniel, director of special operations for the Orange County Probation Department.. .

By taking polygraph tests, offenders are more likely to tell the truth during counseling sessions and therefore can more easily confront and deal with their problems, Daniel said.

“To be successful treating sex offenders, we need them to be completely honest,” he said .. .

Los Angeles, however, has expressed interest in the polygraph program Orange County has instituted but is waiting to see what kind of reception it receives in the courtroom.

Orange and San Diego counties are the only major jurisdictions in the state to use random lie detector tests on sex offenders. And in the year since it began, some judges have raised warning flags.

Modesto, Calif. Mayor Issues Polygraph Challenge

The Modesto Bee reports on a polygraph challenge issued by Modesto mayor Carmen Sabatino in an article titled “Mayor argues for lie detector test.” This short article is cited in full, with hyperlinks added by


Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino [] publicly challenged Stanislaus County Supervisor Ray Simon [] on Tuesday to take a lie detector test regarding the 1999 mayoral election.

Simon was not interested. “I wouldn’t be so foolish as to take a lie detector test — I don’t care what (Sabatino) demands,” he said. “Frankly, this is just another example of his bullying attitude.”

Though the California secretary of state’s office cleared county officials of wrongdoing, Sabatino continues to charge that Simon, County Counsel Mick Krausnick and others tried to manipulate when ballots would go out for the all-mail runoff election.

Monday, a Superior Court judge agreed with Sabatino’s recommendation that the civil grand jury investigate itself for a possible breach of confidentiality regarding release of a document tied to Sabatino’s manipulation claim.

Though no one admits leaking the document, which Simon had on his Web site at one point, Krausnick said no breach occurred because the document is public record.

“Missing Woman’s Husband Misses Polygraph Test”

Los Angeles radio station KFWB and the Associated Press report. Excerpt:

(KFWB/AP) 8.30.01, 5:10p — Homicide investigators using body-sniffing dogs planned to search an oil field Friday for clues to the disappearance of the daughter of a former state senator. The area to be combed in Signal Hill is near the garage where a sport utility vehicle belonging to Jana Carpenter-Koklich was found earlier this week.

Her husband, Bruce Koklich, failed to show up Thursday for a scheduled lie-detector test, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“He wanted the questions to the test (ahead of time),” said Deputy David Cervantes. “It’s not our policy to provide them.”

It was unclear if the Lakewood man would reschedule the examination.

His mother-in-law said Koklich was leary of how the polygraph test would be administered.

“He’s been given a lot of advice by a lot of friends, some of them… in the law field and even in law enforcement, and has heard all kinds of horror stories about how they use tricky questions,” Janet Carpenter said.

Koklich has not been named as a suspect in the disappearance but also has not been ruled out, authorities said. He has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to his wife’s return. Former Sen. Paul Carpenter says he does not consider his son-in-law a suspect.

Anyone requested to submit to a polygraph interrogation in connection with a crime — whether innocent or guilty — would be well-advised to refuse. “Passing” this pseudoscientfic “test” will not clear one of suspicion, while “failing” it is highly prejudicial.