Sanford Police Department Relied on Voice Stress Analysis in Trayvon Martin Shooting Investigation

A lawyer for George Zimmerman, who on 26 February 2012 shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has told WOFL television news that his client passed a voice stress test administered by the Sanford, Florida Police Department. Criminal defense attorney Hal Uhrig made the statement in explaining why he believed that Zimmerman, whom he had not yet met, had acted in self-defense.

However, voice stress testing (of any kind) is without scientific basis and has never been proven to work at better than chance levels of accuracy. A job posting by the Sanford P.D. indicates that the specific variety of voice stress testing it uses is the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), which is marketed by the so-called National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), a West Palm Beach, Florida limited liability corporation. NITV has acknowledged in federal court that “the CVSA is not capable of lie detection” (though it claims the opposite in its marketing materials).

For more on CVSA, see ABC News Exposé of Charles Humble and CVSA on YouTube.

Baker DVSA Loses a Customer

Dee J. Hall reports for the Wisconson State Journal that “Dr.” E. Gary Baker, the faux Ph.D. who markets what he styles a “Digital Voice Stress Analyzer” to law enforcement agencies, has lost the Jefferson, Wisconsin Police Department as a customer:

Jefferson police cancel training on voice-stress analyzer
By DEE J. HALL
608-2523-6132
dhall@madison.com

The city of Jefferson Police Department has cancelled a training session on how to use a controversial voice-stress analyzer after the Wisconsin State Journal raised questions about the technology and the qualifications of the business owner scheduled to conduct the training.

Voice-stress analysis is used by some law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, to detect “microtremors” in the voice that backers of the technology say indicates speakers are stressed and therefore answering questions deceptively.

“If everything has been exhausted in investigative techniques and they have a suspect or someone they want to eliminate as a suspect, it (CVSA) has been used,” Madson said, adding that the technology has prompted confessions from suspects. “The tool works, as far as I’m concerned.”

Detective Sergeant Tim Madson is badly misinformed. The existing peer reviewed research suggests that voice stress analyzers perform at roughly chance levels of accuracy. While these devices might be useful for scaring confessions out of naive and gullible persons, they have no scientific basis and are no more to be relied upon than a colander wired to a photocopier with a sheet of paper saying “He’s Lying” on the glass paten. Continue reading Baker DVSA Loses a Customer

Colorado Television News Program Investigates Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA)

Colorado television station KUSA 9News investigative reporter Jace Larson examines the use of the “Computer Voice Stress Analyzer” (CVSA) in the state:

KUSA – A device used by Colorado law enforcement agencies to identify when someone is lying, may not work and may be costing taxpayers money.

Computer Voice Stress Analyzers (CVSAs) claim to measure changes in a person’s voice that indicate a lie.

However, three recent studies say the device does not accurately tell the difference between a person lying and a person telling the truth.

CVSAs have been used by 21 law enforcement agencies in Colorado.

Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the International Association of Chiefs of

Police and the Department of Defense question the validity of CVSAs.

In 2006 a University of Florida study found CVSAs, “performed at chance-level for deception, truth and stress.” The same study went on to say, “false positive rates were high.”

Westminster Police Investigator Wayne Read doesn’t agree though. He and members of his department have used the device and swear by it.

“I know how to operate the instrument. I know how the instrument works. I don’t think I could deceive the instrument,” said Read.

Read’s belief in CVSA despite the scientific evidence against it is reminiscent of the dogged belief of polygraph operators in their own pseudoscientific form of lie detection, despite broad consensus among scientists that it has no scientific basis.

Instructors who teach law enforcement agents how to read the test agree.

“It’s not audible to the human ear,” said Ben Conrique.

Conrique works for The National Institute for Truth Verification, the company selling CVSAs.

“Voice Stress indicated whether or not a person is telling the truth,” said Conrique.

And yet the National Institute for Truth Verification admitted before a federal court that CVSA “is not capable of lie detection.”

The National Institute for Truth Verification sells each device for about $10,000.
Agencies in Colorado have spent more than $331,000 on training and equipment.

“You only spend that type of money on something that has a proven success rate,” said Conrique.

However, experts who oppose CVSAs believe the devices do not work and that they lead to false confessions by suspects.

Deputies in Maricopa County, Ariz. suspected Robert Louis Armstrong of triple murder.

They questioned him for 10 hours in 2003. After deputies told him his test showed he was lying, Armstrong confessed.

Evidence emerged later proving Armstrong was out of the state at the time of the murders and he was freed.

He sued the sheriff’s office.

9Wants to Know tried to speak with deputies in Maricopa County but they declined.

Several agencies around the county have decided to stop using the CVSAs and now rely on other methods such as a polygraph test.

Unfortunately, polygraph tests, too, are completely unreliable as a means of lie detection. They are inherently biased against the truthful, yet easily manipulated through the use of simple countermeasures. See The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for a thorough debunking.

“If you think the CVSA is going to tell you whether witnesses or suspects are telling the truth, you’re gravely mistaken,” said CVSA opponent Richard Leo.

Leo is a criminologist and professor of law at the University of San Francisco.

Leo told 9NEWS if a law enforcement agency buys this device, “You’re wasting your money and you’re wasting public money.”

“You might as well be flipping coins or reading tea leaves or reading an Ouija board,” he continued.

The following are agencies that have confirmed to 9Wants to Know that they own or have used CVSAs:

*Boulder Police Department
*Brighton Police Department
*Broomfield Police Department
*Colorado Division of Wildlife
*Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
*El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
*Englewood Police Department
*Federal Heights Police Department
*Fort Morgan Police Department
*Glenwood Springs Police Department
*Golden Police Department
*Grand Junction Police Department
*Lakewood Police Department
*Lamar Police Department
*Longmont Police Department
*Moffat County Sheriff’s Office
*Northglenn Police Department
*Sterling Police Department
*Thornton Police Department
*Westminster Police Department
*Yuma County Sheriff’s Office

For further reading and video links, see the KUSA 9News website’s feature page, The Truth About Lies. and for discussion, see the CVSA and other Voice Stress Analysis Applications forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

Department of Defense Polygraph Program Gets Makeover

Steven Aftergood reports in the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News newsletter & blog that on 25 January 2007, the Department of Defense issued a new directive governing polygraph policy:

The Department of Defense has revised and supplemented its polygraph program to include non-polygraph techniques for detecting deception.

A new Pentagon directive (pdf) introduces the term “Credibility Assessment (CA),” which refers to “The multi-disciplinary field of existing as well as potential techniques and procedures to assess truthfulness that relies on physiological reactions and behavioral measures to test the agreement between an individual’s memories and statements.”

The new directive also transfers the polygraph program from the Defense Security Service to the secretive DoD Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). The program will be overseen by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Eleven military and defense intelligence organizations listed in the directive are authorized to conduct polygraph and credibility assessment examinations.

The reliability of polygraph testing for employee screening is widely disputed on scientific grounds. But many government security officials nevertheless insist on its value and utility, and the practice persists.

See “Polygraph and Credibility Assessment Program,” Department of Defense Directive 5210.48, January 25, 2007.

Significantly, the new directive tightens control over DoD agencies’ use of any “credibility assessment” technology other than the polygraph. This seems a likely reaction to the post-9/11 debacle wherein some DoD components began using Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) to interrogate prisoners. The manufacturer of this quack device, the so-called “National Institute of Truth Verification,” has admitted in court that CVSA “is not capable of lie detection,” and the company was recently the subject of an ABC News exposé. DoD eventually put an end to its use of CVSA. The new directive ensures that henceforward, DoD agencies will use only officially approved pseudoscientific techniques for “credibility assessment” purposes.

The new directive also changes the name of the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI) to the “Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment” (DACA). At the time of this writing, the DoDPI website has not yet been updated to reflect this change.

ABC News Exposé of Charles Humble and CVSA on YouTube

A March 2006 ABC News Primetime story on Charles Humble, the phony Ph.D. behind the pseudoscientific Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, has been posted to YouTube:

For previous discussion of this news story, see Innocent Until Proved Guilty? (CVSA Exposé) on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

Tremors of the Trade

Retired NYPD detective Warren J. Sonne writes for Officer.com in an article titled, “Tremors of the Trade: Investigative Tool or Troublesome Black Magic?” Excerpt:

Over the past decade, police departments all over this country have lined up to purchase Voice Stress Analyzers. In a country that has placed restrictive rules of law on the police such as Mapp v Ohio (Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule against unreasonable searches and seizures) and Miranda v Arizona (Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and Sixth Amendment right to counsel). My question is, “Are PDs playing with fire?”

I believe that the plain answer is, “yes.”

I think that the first problem comes from the “Pac-Man” generation. Give us a high-tech toy and some practice, and within an hour we will defeat those lying criminals. Once we’ve done that, we can move on to the next level. Hey, CSI solves two or three crimes during their one-hour episodes, don’t they? Well, if they can do itÂ….

There are no quick fixes to criminal investigations, nor are there magic boxes to help detectives figure out who’s lying. There are no shortcuts to competent investigations — at least, there shouldn’t be.

The second problem that I see originates in the many high profile false confession cases that have plagued our profession. The Central Park Jogger case in New York is just one such example. In April of 1989, a young woman was assaulted and raped while running inside of New York’s Central Park. Investigation identified five teenagers as suspects to this crime, and subsequent interrogations produced confessions from four of them. This led to all five being convicted for this crime. In 2002, an unrelated person confessed to this crime, and his confession was coroborrated by DNA. This person, Matias Reyes, claimed that he acted alone. Since there was no corroborating evidence against the five teenagers, other than their confessions, their convictions were overturned.

There are many other cases that have been overturned by the courts involving people, some of them mentally challenged, who have confessed to crimes that they didn’t commit. As a result, many police departments across the country have instituted polices requiring the videotaping of all confessions, with some departments recording all, or nearly all, interviews.

So, do we really need a Supreme Court decision here? Another Miranda? “You have the right to remain quiet and refuse to play the CVSA Game.”

A third issue is, does it work? What is Voice Stress Analysis (VSA), also called Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA)? The equipment now being produced is in the form of very nice looking computers that allegedly measure “micro-tremors” in the voice. The manufacturers of this equipment claim that these micro-tremors are produced when people are under stress, such as when they are lying. One obvious problem is that stress can and does occur for many other reasons in addition to lying.

Some scientific studies (not all) have verified that these micro-tremors exist and can be measured. Unfortunately, these same scientists and their studies have failed to demonstrate lie detection accuracy using CVSA at anything better than chance (flipping a coin).

I visited the web site of the leading CVSA manufacturer, The National Institute for Truth Verification, but other than their claims that CVSA works as a lie detector, I could find no scientific studies to back it up. What I did find were a half-dozen or so endorsements from police officers who were scattered around the country. Yet, not one these endorsement actually claimed that the CVSA worked as a lie detector. It was called a “valuable tool,” and most of endorsers seemed to like the training program, or the versatility of it, but not one claimed that it was an accurate lie detector.

I remember the Xerox machine being a valuable investigative tool as well. All the detective had to do was push the magic button and out came a piece of paper with the word LIE or TRUTH on it. “What’s your name?” was the first question. “Sam Jones” was the reply. Push the button and out came the answer “TRUE.” “Okay Sam, you’ve done pretty well so far. Now, did you steal your Bill Doe’s bike this morning?” asked the detective. “No,” says Sam.” Push the Xerox button, and here comes the answer, “LIE.”

Some of you may laugh, yet others will remember the utility of this less than scientific procedure. People can be awestruck by the appearance of science. Before the advent of the Xerox machine, people had to use “carbon paper” if they wanted copies. People could certainly be naïve in those days. Well, faced with the scientific appearance of CVSA, people can still be naïve in these days as well. The argument for CVSA seems to be based on the utility of the device, not the accuracy of it.

Sonne is absolutely right. But his criticisms of voice stress analysis are largely applicable not only to voice stress analysis, but to polygraphy, too.

“Interrogation Machine’s Maker Settles Crowe Suit”

San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Onell R. Soto reports. (The National Institute for Truth Verification, which markets the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), had earlier admitted in court that their device is not capable of lie detection, but continues to suggest otherwise on its website):

The maker of a machine police used while interrogating the brother of slain Escondido girl Stephanie Crowe agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused it of making a faulty device that falsely led to murder charges, lawyers said in court yesterday.

Michael Crowe and two friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, were initially accused in 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe’s stabbing death in 1998. Their lawyers said police falsely obtained confessions using the machine.

Murder charges were dropped after Stephanie’s blood was found on a transient’s sweat shirt as the boys headed to trial in 1999. The transient, Richard Tuite, was convicted of manslaughter in the slaying last year and is in prison.

After the charges against the three boys were dropped, their families sued police officers, prosecutors, the government agencies that employed them and the makers of the machine.

U.S. District Judge John S. Rhoades dismissed the majority of the case; attorneys for the families said they will appeal his rulings.

The settlement means there will be no trial for the National Institute for Truth Verification, makers of the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer. Rhoades had ordered a trial six weeks ago.

Lawyers for both sides said they can’t spell out how much the company will pay the families because of a confidentiality agreement.

“It’s not an admission of liability,” Kimberly Oberrecht, who represents the company, said of the settlement.

Crowe family lawyer Milton Silverman called the company’s machine “a fraud and a sham” in court papers and said its use coerced two of the three boys to wrongly tell police they took part in the stabbing death of Stephanie.

Rhoades said he didn’t believe he could approve keeping the settlement amount secret, but the lawyers said later they will arrange for the suit to be settled out of court.

The National Institute’s West Palm Beach, Fla., offices were closed yesterday evening. The company describes the $9,995 machine on its Web site as being “effective in all investigative situations.”

It lists 158 police agencies in California, including several in San Diego County, as clients and says the machine is more effective than a polygraph in determining whether someone is lying.

Michael Crowe and Treadway both denied involvement in Stephanie’s stabbing, but they said they began doubting themselves after an Oceanside police officer working with Escondido investigators told them the machine was highly accurate and indicated they were lying, lawyers said.

“[St. Louis] Area Police Agencies Use Voice ‘Lie Detector'”

Eric Hand reports for the Saint Louis Post Dispatch:

The urban legend goes like this: Police wire the gullible crook up to a copy machine, put a colander on his head and say the contraption is a lie detector. Intimidated, the crook confesses.

Police say the latest lie-detecting gizmo – one that looks for vocal tremors in recorded conversations – is also eliciting confessions.

But many scientists, including Washington University psychologist Mitchell Sommers, say the voice analysis devices are little more than $10,000 colanders. In distinguishing liars from truth-tellers, flipping a coin works better, according to a study Sommers performed.

“It’s beyond my imagination why anyone would buy one of these devices,” Sommers said.

Yet at least 1,400 law enforcement agencies have. Missouri ranks second, behind Florida, for the number of agencies that have bought a Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, sold by the National Institute for Truth Verification, a Florida company that pioneered so-called voice stress analysis. There are at least 29 agencies in the St. Louis area that use them.

Polygraphs assume that lying causes measurable changes in a person’s breathing, pulse, blood pressure and sweat. Similarly, voice analysis assumes that lying causes stress, which in turn causes tiny telltale tremors and other modulations in a person’s voice.

Sommers says the devices are pretty good at detecting stress. But whether that stress indicates lying is another question. There’s the stress associated with lying, he said, and there’s also the stress of being an innocent person in an interrogation room.

University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo says the devices depend on consistent reactions, when individuals can have different physical responses to lying. One person’s gut might churn, while another’s voice might quaver.

Moreover, he adds: “We tend to treat lies as if they are all the same. There’s a spontaneous lie, well-rehearsed lie, a lie for greater good, a lie for individual gain.”

A company called V, based in Chicago, claims its voice analysis algorithms identify more than just deception. The company says its “layered voice analysis” devices can detect excitement, comfort and concentration.

“In some cases, (it) can pick up sexual arousal,” said spokesman Jayson Schkloven. Through a subsidiary, the company markets a “love detector” to consumers.

In a study commissioned by the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, Sommers found that an earlier version of V’s technology picked up lies less than a third of the time, even in a high-stress mock crime scenario.

Some scientists say the polygraph, on the other hand, can identify liars at rates as high as 80 percent. A 2003 National Academy of Sciences study reviewed dozens of papers and unpublished studies. It concluded that the polygraph had many flaws, but could still find liars at rates better than chance (50 percent).

As far as voice methods, the study’s authors found “little or no scientific basis” for its use as an alternative to polygraphy.

“It’s not that it’s all nonsense, but the hype is so great that you have to be skeptical,” said Stephen Fienberg, a Carnegie Mellon University statistician and the lead author of the academy study. He says he hasn’t found a “single, credible, scientific” study that would cause him to believe the devices worked well.

The manufacturers respond by saying academic studies will always underreport the devices’ success because mock scenarios can’t mimic the stress of criminals trying to avoid arrest for serious crimes.

“If there’s no consequence, there’s no stress,” said National Institute for Truth Verification executive director David Hughes. “You’d think if you catch bad guys, everyone would be happy.”

Sommers said that increasing the stakes could increase the detectable stress. But he said most academic researchers wouldn’t be able to perform such tests for ethical reasons.

While academics debate their legitimacy, the devices appear to be catching on in the insurance arena. They’re used in Britain to screen out fraudulent claims. The U.S. insurance industry has been hesitant to use them for fears of alienating customers, said James Quiggle, spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

“But there are rumors that some insurance companies are quietly using (voice analysis) to handle routine claims calls,” he said.

According to V, Illinois-based Safeway Insurance Group has completed a pilot study in a California call center using V’s devices.

Kirkwood Police detective Thomas Joseph said he has used his voice stress device hundreds of times, mostly on pre-employment screenings for police candidates.

He readily admits that it’s not a lie detector.

“This is merely a tool,” said Joseph, who is on the board of directors for the National Institute for Truth Verification. “There isn’t an ideal tool out there that’s going to say, ‘John Doe, you’re lying.'”

Everybody, he says, is offering a new and better mousetrap – they come and go. Upon joining the Kirkwood department in 1994, he found an old voice-based system collecting dust in a storage closet.

The device, made in the late 1970s by now-defunct Dektor, is contained in a locked suitcase. It contains a plastic unit, covered in chrome switches and dials and a spool of graph paper that would show the results of the voice analysis. Joseph said the machine didn’t work very well, and eventually fell into disuse.

“They invested all that money in it and it died,” he said.

======================

Area law officers use voice analyzer

The National Institute for Truth Verification says more than 1,400 law enforcement agencies have bought the $10,000 voice stress analysis device it sells. These area agencies use the devices:

Ballwin Police
Berkeley Police
Breckenridge Hills Police
Brentwood Police
Chesterfield Police
Clayton Police
Crestwood Police
Des Peres Police
Eastern Mo. Correctional Center
Ellisville Police
Franklin County Drug Task Force
Franklin County Prosecutors Office
Franklin County Sheriff’s Dept.
Hazelwood Police
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Dept.
Kirkwood Police Dept.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Dept.
Manchester Police
Normandy Police
Overland Police
Pevely Police
St. Ann Police
St. Louis County Police
Union Police
Warrenton Police
Washington Police
Webster Groves Police
University City Police
Collinsville Police

These agencies did not return messages. The National Institute for Truth Verification says it has sold them the devices:

St. Louis Community Release Center
Eureka Police
Jennings Police
Maryland Heights Police
Richmond Heights Police
St. Louis Police
Warren County Sheriff’s Dept.

List compiled by Matthew Fernandes of the Post-Dispatch

“Crowe Family Can Sue Makers of Lie-Detector Test”

North County Times reporter Teri Figueroa reports on a lawsuit involving the National Institute of Truth Verification, which markets the “Computer Voice Stress Analyzer”:

SAN DIEGO —- A federal judge ruled Monday that three teenagers initially accused of killing Stephanie Crowe can sue the makers of a voice analyzer test that police used to gauge whether the boys were lying when in the days following the child’s death.

The teens, now young adults, were charged with murder in the 1998 stabbing death of the 12-year-old Escondido girl. The three were jailed, in large part, based on statements two of them made to police during lengthy interrogations.

The families are suing the National Institute for Truth Verification, which makes the voice analyzer machine that police used in interrogating the boys.

The suit proclaims that the manufacturers are liable for the harm the boys suffered, and that the product led the boys to make false and misleading statements to police. Calling the machine a “fraud,” in recent court documents, Michael Crowe’s attorney argued that use of the machine caused Crowe to doubt his memory, and ultimately prompted the boy to tell police that he must have killed his sister, even though he could not remember doing so.

The makers of the product, which is called a Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, argued that use of the machine —- and the damning statements from the boys that followed —- represented only a small part of the reason the three boys were arrested for the slaying.

Charges against the boys were dropped a year later, after DNA tests revealed the slain girl’s blood on the clothing of transient Richard Tuite. Last year, a jury convicted Tuite in the girl’s death.

Long before Tuite’s arrest, the families of the three boys sued the Escondido police department and others, mostly over a slew of allegations that included violations of constitutional rights in the boys and the families were treated.

The boys’ attorneys argued that confessions —- later ruled by a court to have been coerced —- elicited from two of the boys were the main reason the teenagers were arrested.

U.S. District Judge John Rhoades said it’s up to a jury to decide just how much impact the machine had on the arrests.

The ruling means the six-year-old civil case may finally head to trial, although the case is now just a sliver of what it once was.

“It’s the first morsel of anything we’ve got to chew on,” Crowe family attorney Milt Silverman said after the hearing. Stephanie’s older brother Michael Crowe was among the three boys accused in her slaying. Buddies Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser were also jailed charged with murder. Crowe was 14 at the time, Treadway and Houser were 15.

Most of the civil suit filed by the families of the three boys against the Escondido police department and others has been dismantled, with Rhoades tossing much of the case dealing with alleged constitutional violations.

The families argue that the arrests came primarily as a result of damning statements from Crowe and Treadway. All three of the boys took the “truth verification” tests during their questioning, and all three boys were told by police that they had failed the tests.

Silverman also argued that the makers of the product —- which he said has “no scientific validity whatsoever” —- misrepresented its accuracy to police.

At the end of two 10-hour interrogations, Treadway ultimately told police the three teenagers had followed through on a plan to kill Stephanie, 12 years old at the time of her death.

A videotape of the interrogations show Treadway focusing intently on the results of the “truth verification” test, which police told him he failed.

The makers of the voice stress analyzer, the National Institute for Truth Verification, had asked Rhoades to disallow the three families from suing them.

Attorneys for the makers of the product claimed the results of the tests did not play a part in the charging and jailing of the three boys. They pointed out that Rhoades, in earlier rulings, found that the police did have probable cause to arrest the boys.

Kim Oberrecht, attorney for the makers of the machine, told the judge that there are no facts to support the plaintiffs’ theory that the boys confessed because of the machine.

Oberrecht declined to comment after the hearing.

Last month, Rhoades ruled the Crowe family has no grounds to sue on most of its claims, including a claim that police violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure during the investigation into the girl’s death.

Also, the Crowe family cannot sue over the lengthy police interrogations of Michael Crowe, nor can the family sue over their claims that police wrongly arrested him for the slaying, Rhoades found.

Rhoades did agree to let part of the suit move forward, including allegations by Stephanie’s parents that Escondido police falsely imprisoned them by refusing to let them leave the police station. However, Escondido police are challenging that ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhoades’ findings last month came a year after he granted defense requests to toss out almost all of the claims the Houser and Treadway families raised.

“Women in Athens Police Sex Case Pass Portions of Lie Detection Test”

Decatur Daily staff writer Holly Hollman reports on the use of Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) in Athens, Alabama:

ATHENS — Females alleging they had sexual relations with Athens police officers passed portions of a lie detection test, Mayor Dan Williams said.

The mayor said the women, former Athens City Jail inmates, took a computer voice stress analyzer as part of an internal investigation.

“I don’t know how many females took it,” Williams said, “but it did seem to confirm some things. It indicated there is something to their allegations.”

Athens police Capt. Tracy Harrison has said that one former female inmate made an allegation and that during the internal investigation, other females made allegations.

He said the allegations are that the females had sexual relations with three officers.

Williams said the internal investigation is not complete.

“We’ve talked to officers and inmates, and there may be others we need to talk to,” Williams said. “We’ve got to determine what really happened.” A police officer who asked not to be identified said the incidents allegedly occurred over several months outside the jail, and that there was at least one incident at the jail. The officer said the women have been in jail for prostitution and drugs.

Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce, who would not give specifics about the allegations or comment on whether former female inmates took a lie detector test, said the accusations are not criminal allegations.

“It’s allegations along the lines of conduct unbecoming an officer,” he said.

Athens police Chief Wayne Harper is in Hawaii visiting family and will return to work Jan. 10. Williams said that if any disciplinary action is needed, that he, the chief, other superior officers and Human Resources would make that decision.

“Depending on what really happened, it could be anything from a letter of reprimand to suspension without pay to termination,” Williams said.

Officials in Athens, Alabama need to understand that “passing” a CVSA “test” cannot confirm a person’s statement, just as “failing” cannot disconfirm it. While CVSA may be yielding a cash flow for the hucksters at the National Institute of Truth Verification who peddle it, it’s not yielding valid diagnoses of truth versus deception. A Magic-8 Ball produces equally valid results at a fraction of the price.