El Paso Police Chief Calls Polygraph a “Piece of Junk”

El Paso Chief of Police Greg Allen
El Paso P.D. Chief Greg Allen

Speaking in unusually blunt terms for a senior law enforcement official, El Paso, Texas chief of police Greg Allen has decried the polygraph as a “piece of junk,” while El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association president Bobby Holguin has pronounced it “garbage.” Adriana M. Ch├ívez reports for the El Paso Times:

EL PASO — The El Paso Police Department has dropped the use of polygraph exams — commonly known as lie detector tests — on police officers during internal investigations because the results were considered useless.

Until several months ago, the exams were used when complaints were filed against officers.

Police Chief Greg Allen, who was appointed police chief in late March, called the exams a “piece of junk” and the president of the police union said they are “garbage.”

In August, the El Paso City Council approved a new contract with the El Paso Municipal Officers Association that made it possible for an officer to request an independent polygraph examiner to administer the test, instead of one employed by the department, if the chief requests a polygraph test.

But the new administration of Chief Allen simply decided to not use them even though they are still an option.

Criminal suspects also have the option of taking a polygraph test, said police spokesman Officer Chris Mears.

The Police Department has three police officers who are certified to administer polygraph tests.

Both Allen and El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association President Robert “Bobby” Holguin said they have issues with the accuracy of polygraph tests.

Allen and Holguin are in good company. The consensus view among scientists is that polygraphy has no scientific basis. Continue reading El Paso Police Chief Calls Polygraph a “Piece of Junk”

“Lie Detectors Spark Debate on Reliability: Police Asking for Tests in City Hall Flooding”

Paul Hughes reports for the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican-American:

WATERBURY — Polygraph examiner Leighton R. Hammond says lie detector tests of some city employees should speed the police investigation into whether any of them are responsible for the flooding of City Hall last weekend.

“It certainly would narrow the field down very quickly,” said Hammond, who has conducted polygraph examinations for 25 years.

However, he said no employees can be forced to take a lie detector test.

A 1975 state law forbids the polygraph testing of private and public employees without their permission. The only exemptions are police officers and employees of the state Department of Corrections.

The law says polygraphs cannot be used to screen prospective employees. No private employer or arm of state and local government can require employees to submit to a lie detector test or dismiss or discipline an employee for not taking a polygraph.

A 1988 federal law also regulates the use of polygraphs in private and public workplaces.

Police Chief Neil O’Leary announced Wednesday that police will ask some City Hall employees and firefighters to take a lie detector test to assist in the investigation of the last weekend’s flooding.

The source of the flooding was a standpipe in a closed office on the fourth floor of City Hall. Police want to test any city workers who had access to that room and firefighters from the firehouse adjoining City Hall. A standpipe is a high vertical pipe used for storing water and keeping it at a desired pressure.

Police believe a standpipe valve in that fourth-floor office was opened sometime late Saturday, flooding the entire building. Investigators doubt a mechanical failure was the cause, though the possibility has not been ruled out yet.

H. James Haselkamp Jr., the city’s director of human resources, said state law leaves the decision of whether or not to submit to a polygraph test to individual employees. He said he expects city unions will advise members not to be tested.

“It would not surprise me at all if the employee unions say no,” Hammond said.

Stephen Laccone, president of the city’s blue collar union, said individual union members are free to decide whether or not to undergo testing.

O’Leary reported some blue collar workers agreed to talk to police and take a polygraph test. “We’ve done some interviews,” he said.

It was unclear Wednesday what the firefighters union was recommending its members do. Union president Daniel French said Tuesday he would consult with the union’s lawyers. French did not immediately respond for requests for comment Wednesday.

A polygraph records bodily changes assumed to occur when a subject lies. The devices record breathing, blood pressure, pulse rate and perspiration. The physiological responses are charted and the examiner analyzes the charts and renders an opinion on the truthfulness of the person.

Proponents of polygraph testing and its critics disagree over the accuracy and reliability of polygraph evidence.

If properly conducted, Hammond said, polygraph results are nearly 100 percent accurate.

John Hovarth [sic], a polygraph examiner with 30 years experience and criminal justice professor at Michigan State University, said the accuracy rate ranges from 85 to 95 percent, give or take. Lie detector tests are not admissible in Connecticut courts. The state Supreme Court has repeatedly held that polygraph evidence is inadmissible because of the questionable accuracy.

The American Polygraph Association reports some states and federal district courts allow the use of polygraph evidence under certain circumstances. The only state that allows the unhindered use of polygraph evidence is New Mexico. Horvath said it is treated the same as other scientific evidence in courts.

The American Polygraph Association contends scientific evidence shows polygraph examinations are highly accurate and reliable. The association also concedes the polygraph is not infallible and errors do occur. It recommends examiners follow certain procedures to reduce the possibility for errors.

“Nothing is perfect,” said Hammond, who works as an examiner for 60 Connecticut police departments and the state Office of the Chief Public Defender.

The National Research Council concluded in a 2002 study that polygraph examinations are too inaccurate for the U.S. government to screen job seekers and employees for spies or other national security risks. However, the study found the tests can be useful in the investigation of specific, known events, such as crimes.

In these cases, the council said, tests can differentiate lying from telling the truth at rates well above chance, but they are far from perfect.

Horvath said much of the accuracy and reliability rests on the credentials, experience and conduct of the examiner.

According to the American Polygraph Association, there are 29 states with laws that license polygraph examiners. Connecticut is not one of them.

Hammond said there are 15 members enrolled in the Connecticut chapter of the American Polygraph Association. The association sets training and educational requirements for members. It also has bylaws and a code of ethics that members must follow.

“Waterbury Employees Face Polygraph Testing”

Steve Gambini reports for the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican-American. Excerpt:

WATERBURY — Employees with access to the fourth floor of City Hall will be asked to take polygraph tests as police continue to investigate possible causes of a massive weekend flood in the building.

“We’re going to ask them to take a polygraph because it’s a valuable tool,” said Police Chief Neil O’Leary. “It’s a very routine investigative tool that’s used by our department. It’s so routine that we have three certified polygraph examiners in the department.”

Firefighters who were working on the day of the incident were among the first to be asked to take the lie detector tests, but O’Leary said the investigation is not trying to single out those workers above all other potential suspects.

“We’re starting with the people who had immediate access, and that would include the people who were sleeping in the building,” O’Leary said. “Then we’ll move on to other city employees, and quite frankly some former employees who had access to the building.”

Those current employees will include those who were using the closed, fourth-floor office as a place to smoke cigarettes during the workday. O’Leary said investigators found numerous ash trays in the small office.

Daniel French, president of the firefighters union, said he was consulting with the bargaining unit’s attorneys for advice on how the firefighters should respond to the request for lie detector tests.

“They haven’t even ruled out the possibility that it was an accident or a frozen pipe yet,” French added.

If Waterbury, Connecticut firefighters and other city hall employees can be legally compelled to submit to polygraph interrogations, then it might be prudent for all to educate themselves about the trickery on which polygraph “testing” depends and then adopt the “complete honesty” approach outlined in Chapter 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, informing their polygraphers up-front that they understand that polygraphy is a pseudoscientific sham.

South Africa: “Lie Detector Tests for Anti-Poaching Team”

This short article by the Cape Times’ environmental writer is reproduced here in full:

Lie detector tests for anti-poaching team

December 3, 2004

The Overstrand Municipality is looking for a tough, committed group of people to join their revamped anti-poaching unit and who will be prepared to undergo lie detector tests before they get their jobs.

Last month, three Marines were suspended after they were found with perlemoen [abalone] in their vehicle.

Johann Erasmus, senior project manager of the Overstrand Marines, said yesterday they would be employing an extra 30 staff members to swell their staff complement to 43.

The Marines will work closely with Marine and Coastal Management who will also be employing extra fisheries inspectors in the area.

This will form part of the new Operation Trident anti-poaching initiative to replace the defunct police Operation Neptune anti-poaching project.

Erasmus said yesterday: “We’ve encountered so much corruption in the anti-poaching work, which is just unacceptable.”

“The public put their trust in us to do the job and we can’t afford to have anyone who is corrupt.”

“Only people who agree to take a lie detector test in the interview and agree to undergo random lie detector tests once they are employed, will be considered for the job.”

“If they fail it, they won’t get the job. If they fail it once they are employed, they will be fired.”

The Marines will be on patrol in shifts for 24 hours, on foot, by vehicle and by boat.

The Marines will also set up a 24-hour operations centre where the public can report suspected poaching incidents anonymously.

For further information, telephone 028 271 8120. The closing date for applications is December 15. – Environment Writer.

Johann Erasmus’ desire to root out corruption is commendable. But his decision to rely on the pseudoscience of polygraphy is wrongheaded. Polygraphy has an inherent bias against truthful of persons. Conversely, it is easily defeated by liars who understand the trickery on which the “test” depends. By relying on lie detectors, agencies will tend to systematically screen out their most honest applicants. The lie detector is a poor substitute for real background investigations and snap inspections.

Israel: “Knesset Okays Bill Prohibiting Lie Detector Test for Employees”

Zvi Zrahiya reports for Ha’aretz. This short article is cited here in full:

The Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee on Wednesday approved a bill preventing employers from requesting or demanding that a job candidate undergo a lie detector test.

The bill, submitted by MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud), sets special circumstances under which an employer would be allowed to request that an employee undergo a lie detector test.

One of the reasons the bill gives for a polygraph test is a disciplinary investigation being held against the employee. Another reason is an investigation on an event which may cause substantial damage and which raises a reasonable suspicion against the employee’s involvement, while no other reasonable way to check the employee’s involvement is available.

According to the bill, the employer will be obliged to provide the employee with detailed information on the purpose of the test and the use that may be done with its results. The employer will have to give the employee a reasonable amount of time to provide a written agreement in the presence of a lawyer to undergo the test.

The bill sets instructions about providing the employee with the test results and prohibits the use of results of a lie detector test that was performed against the law’s instructions.

The bill also prohibits the employer or any other person to exploit an employee’s refusal to undergo a polygraph test.

The bill does not apply to the defense authorities, including the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad, and the Knesset Guard.

MK Shaul Yahalom (National Religious Party), chairman of the Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee, said on Wednesday that the bill was important for strengthening employees’ rights.

By excluding military and intelligence agencies from the protections of this antipolygraph legislation, Israel is committing the same error that the United States made in 1988, when it created a double-standard by giving federal, state, and local governments an unjustified blanket exemption from the Employee Polygraph Protection Act.

University of Toronto professor of psychology John J. Furedy adds the following commentary:

Just as the ancient Romans knew there was something wrong with entrails reading, but were so desperate to know the future for really important events that they employed it, so both the Americans and Israelis know that the polygraph is flawed, but when it comes to really important things like security, they superstitiously accept its use.

There is also a confusion of ethical with logical considerations. In ethical terms, it makes sense to protect individual rights when all that is involved is wrongly classifying a dishonest employee, but not when the error entails danger to the nation. However, in logical terms, whatever flaws the polygraph has as an employee screener, the same flaws are present as a spy screener. These logical flaws include the fact that it’s not a “test” in the sense that an IQ test is a test, the comparison between relevant and “control” questions makes no scientific sense (i.e., its rationale is non-sensical), and the fact that there has been no systematic evidence produced that indicates that the psychophysiological information that is provided actually improves accuracy.

$4 Million Awarded to Employees Fired for Refusing Polygraph

Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer John Shiffman reports in an article titled, “A.C. firm must pay fired trio $4 million”:

No one ever solved the mystery of who stole $4,000 from a desk at the telemarketing offices of a Jersey Shore time-share, or even whether any crime was really committed at all.

But this much is known: Three company employees – a polished salesman, a single mother, and a recovering drug addict – were fired over the alleged theft. Four years later, the same three suspects stand to share a $4 million judgment against the company.

“On paper, I’m now a millionaire,” said the salesman, Paulino Bonds of Mays Landing, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia. “But I know it’s not over.”

A federal jury delivered the multimillion-dollar award last month, concluding that the employer, Flagship Resort Development Corp., of Atlantic City, fired the workers because they refused to take lie-detector tests.

A 1988 law prohibits companies from asking employees to take a polygraph. But such cases rarely make it to trial, say lawyers who have researched the issue, in part because the law is so seldom violated.

“This may be one of the first of its kind to go to verdict,” said Karen Williams, the attorney for Flagship, which has filed motions seeking to have the verdict and $4 million award thrown out. “But the punishment has to fit the crime.”

Bonds’ attorney, Randolph C. Lafferty, agreed that the case was unusual, but said the award was just, given the “flagrant violation of the law.”

“I think that’s why the jury thought it was important to send a strong message,” Lafferty said.

Two jurors who heard the case said it was obvious Flagship fired Bonds, Gloria Gadson and Danielle Lyles for refusing to take a polygraph.

“What happened to those people wasn’t right,” said juror Vivian Komar, a nurse from Cape May. “They were violated. They were decent people.”

Did the three workers steal the money? Komar said she doubts it. “They had too much to lose,” she said.

Another juror, Megan Giordano, a graduate student who lives in Gibbstown, said she was still not sure.

“I still haven’t figured that out,” Giordano said, though she added it was “clear cut” the employer broke the law by requesting the polygraphs.

Mark Pfeffer, who represented Lyles, said there was no evidence anyone stole any money. “If I had thought she had stolen the money, I never would have represented her,” he said. “When you get terminated from your job for stealing money when you didn’t, it makes it real hard to get another job.”

The theft is alleged to have occurred 10 days before Christmas 1999 at the time-share’s call center in Brigantine, where Bonds, Lyles and Gadson worked.

Bonds, 39, was the successful salesman. He supervised telemarketers who pitched the time-shares for Flagship and earned $70,000 a year.

Lyles, 29, was the single mother with two small children, whose supervision of the company’s data-entry employees earned her about $30,000 a year.

Gadson, 45, was the recovering addict, who had recently moved to the Atlantic City area from North Jersey and had successfully completed a rehabilitation program. She was eager to restart her life and was earning $35,000 a year supervising telemarketers, Lafferty said.

The three did not work directly together, but bonded while smoking Newports outside during work breaks.

On the day of the alleged theft, a coworker, Charlotte Blake, who sat next to Lyles, left to pick up a check for about $4,100 from her lawyer. It was money owed from an unrelated auto accident.

Blake testified that she cashed the check at a check-cashing agency and visited her boyfriend before returning to her office. She said she carried the cash into the office in an envelope.

She said she told Lyles about the money, put it inside her desk drawer, then walked away to help plan an office Christmas party. When she came back, she lamented that the money was missing. The police were called. Desks, cars and trash cans were searched, but no money was found.

Almost immediately, Blake cast suspicion on Lyles. The police took statements at the Brigantine station from both women.

Flagship hired a private investigator. He took statements and wrote up a report, recommending that Blake, Gadson, Bonds and Lyles be asked to take lie-detector tests.

Flagship executives asked them to take the polygraphs. Blake agreed and passed, according to the investigator’s report. The three others refused and were fired.

Gadson and Lyles became upset. But Bonds said he was not worried. In telephone conference calls with his two colleagues, he told them to calm down. They had been wronged, he said. Their employer had violated a federal law. He had learned about this obscure law a few years back, he explained, during supervisor training while working at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. They needed to find good lawyers and sue, he told them.

The case took four years to reach trial before U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas in Camden. The trial lasted 10 days.

During deliberations, jurors did not find Blake credible, jurors Komar and Giordano said.

“Come on, if that’s all the money you have in the world, are you going to broadcast it?” Komar said.

Komar said jurors were wary of Blake’s story because she had a previous criminal conviction related to dishonesty, one she did not list on her employment application. At the time, Blake still owed about $4,000 in restitution related to the criminal case, records show.

After a day of deliberation the jury awarded compensatory damages. Lyles got $88,285 in lost wages and $100,000 for emotional distress. Bonds won $263,040 in lost wages and $200,000 for emotional distress. Gadson received $145,320 for lost wages and $300,000 for emotional distress.

The next day, the jury awarded punitive damages – about $1 million each.

Bonds, who owns a small home in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, said that if the award were upheld, he and his wife planned to buy a home in the Mays Landing area.

Lyles also plans to buy her first home. She didn’t expect to win, she said, because she doesn’t share Bonds’ faith in the justice system. “The kind of justice I usually see is African Americans getting the short end,” she said.

Gadson was not in court for either jury award. She was in state prison, serving a four-year term for marijuana possession with intent to distribute. She has breast cancer, she testified at trial, and was using the marijuana to lessen the ill effects from chemotherapy. Lafferty said Gadson chose prison over other sentencing alternatives “because, sadly, the health-care benefits are better.”

Gadson, too, plans to use the money to buy a house.

“She’s just glad justice has been done,” Bonds said.

Public employees should have the same protections against the voodoo science of polygraphy that these employees enjoyed under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988. In many government agencies, employees may be fired with impunity for refusing to submit to a lie detector “test.” A Comprehensive Employee Polygraph Protection Act is needed.

Jamaica: “More J’can Firms Using Lie Detector Tests: But Detractors Sceptical About Polygraph Reliability”

Jamaica Observer staff reporter Ann Margaret Lim reports.

WHEN the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) discovered that 13 of its expensive laptop computers were missing, it called in a lie detector expert. Seven suspects were run through the polygraph test and one was identified as the culprit. Following his confession, he and four people who bought the computers were arrested.

The EOJ is only one of a growing number of Jamaican entities which are regularly turning to lie detectors or polygraph tests to help solve problems of theft and corruption at various levels of their businesses, a local polygrapher discloses in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Grace, Kennedy; Cool Oasis; Sandals; and Mothers are among the big companies that are regular customers, says Captain Basil Bewry, who is one of four polygraphers operating here. Bewry, a forensic psycho-physiologist who was trained in California, says he has applied lie detector tests to over 1,500 people in Jamaica in the last four years.

Polygraph or lie detector tests grabbed the spotlight last week when Police Commissioner Francis Forbes, clearly desperate to stem corruption in the constabulary, revealed plans to have ambitious cops seeking promotion to sensitive areas of the force undergo integrity tests, including polygraph tests, prior to acceptance.

Forbes’ plan, while seeming to win the approval of some police officers, lawyers and psychologists interviewed by this newspaper, drew scepticism from human rights groups such as Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and Families Against State Terrorism (FAST), and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), ostensibly over concerns about the reliability of the lie detector tests.

“The commissioner spoke about other relevant and important measures and instead this has been latched on to. These tests are not even used in the US court, partially because of the doubt surrounding their accuracy,” remarks Carolyn Gomes, executive director of JFJ, stressing that here is need for a quick implementation of more pressing reforms.

Gomes disagrees with the attention being paid to polygraph testing as a major corruption deterrent, insisting that the procedures for hiring and firing cops need to be examined and that the Police Public Complaints Authority should implement corruption prevention measures more quickly.

Detractors generally point to the United States where polygraph testing has been dogged by controversy. Since the 2001 scandal which broke over the arrest of an FBI agent, Robert Hanssen, who was charged with spying for Russia, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) routinely require new applicants to undergo lie detector tests.

But the controversy worsened after it emerged that serial killer, Gary Leon Ridgway, passed the polygraph test in 1984, but was afterwards found guilty of 48 murders, through DNA testing. The man long held to be guilty, Melvin Foster who had in 1982 failed the test, was acquitted.

Opponents also argue that the test can be duped or studied for and thus cheated, and point to the fact that lie detector tests are not permissible as evidence in courts of law.

“Some people who are used to lying easily without flinching may pass the test,” argues Kingston-based Christian psychiatrist, Anthony Allen. “Those who don’t habitually lie can be trained to do so. You can be specifically trained to alter or mask your psychological responses through self-hypnosis, thus inhibiting an anxiety response,” Allen adds.

Not unusual in a polygraph debate, Allen’s colleague, Charles Thesiger, disagrees. “Only a few can actually train themselves to deal with the change in skin resistance, therefore as a screening device, it is reasonable and it is unlikely to get false positives if properly administered,” he counters.

Speaking for the JLP, Derrick Smith, the spokesman on national security, commends the commissioner for wanting to deal with corruption, but is sceptical about the use of polygraph tests.

“Any method used to identify and weed out corrupt policemen is welcome,” says Smith. “However, there is too much uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of this process and it is inadmissable in court.”

Smith would prefer to see corrupt policemen fired from the force instead of the current practice of assigning them “a desk job on Duke Street”.

Insisting that machines are not the way to uproot corruption, Yvonne Sobers, head of FAST, thinks that sting operations aimed at specific individuals would be more effective. “Polygraphing is a net-fishing approach which may actually catch innocent cops, whilst the guilty may actually pass,” she says.

“It has been called junk or voodoo science because it is unreliable, plus you can learn how to pass the test from books on sale via the Internet.”

Scepticism over polygraphing, however, has not prevented its growing popularity, both inside and outside the US, and now Jamaica, aided and abetted by TV talk shows which use them in a bid to boost ratings.

A BBC Internet article appearing on October 30, 2003 reported that a UK insurer had cut its car claims by 25 per cent since employing polygraphing.

Based on the popularity of the tests, a booming business on how to beat polygraphing has mushroomed. A How to beat the Polygraph Compact CD goes for a retail price of US$51 online, and the Lie Behind the Lie Detector can be downloaded free from www.antipolygraph.org.

Bewry, who is managing director of Atlas Protection and a certified member of the American Polygraph Association, swears by the tests: “The test is 95 per cent accurate, but only under the assumption that the examiner is competent,” he tells this newspaper.

According to Bewry, 70 per cent of those found lying on the test confess afterwards. He adds that larceny makes up 72 per cent of the cases and cites a poll sample of 700 that shows the failure rate amongst men is 60 per cent and women 49 per cent.

Bewry operates two US$5,000 polygraph machines. He charges from US$150 to US$250 for a series of three tests. The polygraph looks for changes in blood pressure, sweat, breathing and heart rate over the three and sometimes four tests, and then compares them.

Responding to claims that people can beat the machines through deliberate means or nervousness, Bewry insists: “Nervousness will not skew the test; what the machine looks for is fear, as nervousness is constant, but fear appears at specific questions.”

There was no apparent nervousness among police officers interviewed by the Sunday Observer. “We agree with anything that is being done to aid accountability and improve the image of the force and since there is a need for this, we welcome the decision,” says Inspector Sonia James, the number two at the Constabulary Communication Network, (CCN), information arm of the police force.

Inspector Stephen Moodie, secretary of the Police Federation which represents rank and file cops, also supports the commissioner’s plans, saying that “the test could be a criterion for promotion at senior superintendent and high command levels, to ensure that corruption and abuse of office will decrease”.

Moodie says it will serve as a deterrent to a policeman who is prone to accept ‘gifts’ and who is seeking promotion, and will “hopefully stem the rise of begging in the force”.

“Because we need to ensure that the right person is in the right place, there needs to be a series of security clearances for persons who have access to facilities which have sensitive information,” Moodie adds. “If they can’t clear these hurdles, the system of checks and balances must ensure that they be kept out of these sensitive positions.”

Lawyer Courtney Kazembe believes that “given the nature of corruption, especially in the higher ranks of the force, polygraphing may be helpful”. He thinks they can assist in making administrative decisions, and supports the view that polygraph tests cannot be easily cheated.

Attorney Clinton Morgan, not yet a fan, notes that there is no specific Jamaican law which can compel a person to submit to a lie detector test, as this is mainly a voluntary exercise. “In contrast to the Fingerprint Act, you are not compelled to take a lie detector test, although the private sector is already using it,” says Morgan..

But Bewry, while acknowledging that lie detector tests were inadmissible in court, emphasises that a confession garnered after the test is acceptable to the court.

Israel: “Bills to Prevent Compelled Polygraph Exam”

IsraelNationalNews.com reports in a short article that is cited here in full:

(IsraelNN.com) The Knesset Social Affairs & Health Committee is preparing two bills for a first reading in the Knesset, both aimed at making a compulsory polygraph exam for job applicants illegal. The bills are authored by MKs Yehiel Hazan (Likud) and Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).

The two legislators believe compelling one to take a lie-detector test is a violation of one’s rights.

“After Ricin Scare, FBI Polygraphs Postal Workers”

Tim Smith reports for the Greenville Times. Excerpt:

The FBI has begun polygraphing Greenville postal workers and truck drivers as the investigation into who delivered a package containing the deadly poison ricin to a Greenville mail facility moves into the third week, the president of the local postal workers union said Thursday.

Dennis Zimmerman, president of Local 168 of the American Postal Workers Union, said the polygraph tests began Wednesday at the Greenville Spartanburg International Airport’s mail center off Pelham Road, where the poison was found.

He said his union has concerns over whether postal officials properly protected workers when the poison was discovered and may file a grievance.

The polygraph testing has included at least one truck driver, Zimmerman said, who he said became upset during the test and ripped off his attachments.

Tom O’Neill, the spokesman for the FBI’s South Carolina headquarters, declined to comment on Zimmerman’s statements, saying FBI agents cannot discuss an active investigation.

Postal officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The union president, who works at a downtown branch, said he has talked with workers at the airport facility about the testing. Zimmerman said workers have complained of stress from the polygraphs. He said at least two workers have complained about questions in the tests concerning their home life.

The union president said while the tests are supposed to be voluntary, workers feel pressure to take them.

“People who opt out are being questioned as if they have something to hide,” Zimmerman said. He said one worker has seen a doctor about his stress and is now on medication.

“We’re telling our people if you don’t care to participate in that, don’t do it but they are feeling a lot of pressure to do it,” he said. “It seems ironic and almost cruel that the people who had their lives threatened are now being intimidated by the government forces.”

“Former Trooper Can File Suit Against Former Polygraph Supervisor”

NBC30.com reports:

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A retired state trooper’s lawsuit against a former supervisor in the state police polygraph unit is being allowed to proceed. U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill refused this week to dismiss retired Trooper Adrienne Lamorte’s lawsuit that claims she was subject to retaliation after raising some questions about the accuracy of some lie detector tests.

Lamorte alleged that a supervisor in the state police polygraph unit was issuing faulty results.

Lamorte filed the federal lawsuit against John Leonard in 2001, claiming Leonard disciplined her after she lodged a complaint about Sgt. Randolph Howell’s conclusions on polygraph results.

Lamorte claimed Howell, a sergeant and commanding officer of the polygraph unit, was “conducting polygraph examinations in an incompetent manner.” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges Howell would report an examinee was truthful when the test scores indicated the opposite.

Lamorte was concerned about the consequences of false results so she relayed her concerns about Howell to Leonard, the lawsuit states.

Lamorte claims she was threatened in September 2000 with a disciplinary transfer unless she agreed to an administrative transfer out of the polygraph unit, according to the lawsuit.

She chose the administrative transfer and later retired.