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.

“Big Lies”

The Los Angeles Daily News discusses the city’s recent polygraph contract in this editorial. Excerpt:

City Hall’s budget woes get worse every day. This year’s projected deficit has nearly doubled in just a week.

Maybe that’s because City Hall pays twice the going rate for its services and contracts.

Take lie-detectors — and frankly it would be a good idea if our city leaders were given lie-detector tests with regularity.

Last week, the City Council approved a $615,000 contract with an East Coast security company to provide polygraph examinations for would-be Los Angeles Police Department officers. What the council didn’t ask about — and the bureaucrats didn’t mention — is that the company doesn’t have any polygraph experts.

Nor did anyone question why the city was paying $395 for each test when the firm was going out and hiring local polygraph experts to conduct the tests for the standard $200 fee.

In other words, the city will pay almost double the going rate for lie-detector tests. The deal, of course, was part of a no-bid contract with $62,000 thrown in so the firm’s executives can travel to Los Angeles to make sure the local experts are doing a good job.

Phyllis Lynes, assistant general manager for the city Personnel Department’s Public Safety Bureau, read about the company, U.S. Investigation Services Inc., in a brochure, and that seemed to be the extent of her research. City bureaucrats claim they made a few random phone calls and surfed the Web looking for competitors, but they didn’t seem to look very hard.

City Controller Laura Chick should take this latest example of waste as proof of the need for her tireless vigilance in defense of the taxpayers’ money. If she doesn’t do it, no one will.

When they’re campaigning, city politicians always make promises about managing the public’s funds responsibly. When they take the oath of office, they pledge to serve and protect the public and its concerns.

Maybe it’s the city’s politicians, not its police officers, who need lie-detector tests. Even at City Hall’s inflated rate of $395 a pop, it would be worth the money if it brought a little truth to City Hall.

“Double Charge for Cop Exams”

Beth Barrett of the Los Angeles Daily News reports on the non-competitive contract recently awarded to US Investigation Services to provide polygraph support for the Los Angeles Police Department. Excerpt:

Without seeking bids, Los Angeles hired an East Coast security firm — at double the going rate — to perform lie detector tests on LAPD recruits to speed the hiring of new police officers, the Daily News has learned.

The firm, found through a brochure, has no polygraph examiners of its own and is hiring local lie detector experts who work for about half the fee it is charging the city.

With few questions asked, the City Council approved the $615,000, six-month contract last week, as well as up to $62,000 in travel reimbursements that would have been unnecessary if local examiners were hired directly.

The money for the contract comes from an unexpended fund originally intended to provide each officer who completes the Police Academy with a $2,000 signing bonus, a recruitment incentive city officials said isn’t effective.

The firm, U.S. Investigation Services Inc. of Vienna, Va., is being paid about $395 a polygraph, even though the local rate is about $200.

“I don’t understand how they could use such a stupid system to get an important service,” said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. “It seems like a system fraught with potential fraud and one almost guaranteed that you’ll pay a very high price, because you’re not exposing it to competition.”

Edward Gelb, past president of the American Polygraph Association and head of a company that does lie detector work for six local police agencies, called the contract a “sweetheart deal.”

City officials who negotiated the deal defended it as a badly needed stopgap after they were caught unprepared for a surge in recruitment that’s approached all-time highs for the decade. Since the Rampart Division anti-gang unit corruption scandal, those recruits are required to take lie detector tests.

Capt. Paul Enox, commanding officer for the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division, said the department wasn’t able to hire enough skilled polygraph examiners or train others to meet the demand immediately. He said discussions with the Sheriff’s Department encountered bureaucratic obstacles.

To respond to the backlog, Enox said he made it “very clear” to the city’s personnel officials they would have to find outside resources to catch up, noting some recruits were being made to wait a couple of months to take the exams.

“The backlog was big and growing bigger, and recruitment is one of the highest priorities for city government,” Enox said. “Personnel was scrambling to find a way to address the backlog quickly and efficiently.”

Phyllis Lynes, assistant general manager for the Personnel Department’s Public Safety Bureau, said she knew about U.S. Investigation Services and had obtained a brochure describing their services.

Lynes said she contacted them, and asked whether they could provide the polygraph service as the number of backlogged LAPD tests was approaching 600.

Lynes said she remembers grilling the company about its prices, but said she couldn’t recall how its officials justified the $395 per exam figure, except that quality control services were included.

Gelb, the past president of the American Polygraph Association, said he was “astonished” that as one of the more prominent experts in the field, he was not contacted.

Since U.S. Investigation Services has been hired, the polygraph backlog has dropped from about 600 to 180, Lynes said.

“The other alternative was not to staff the Police Department, and that’s not an acceptable alternative,” she said.

A better alternative would have been to scrap the LAPD’s polygraph program altogether. The $615,000 spent on pseudoscientific polygraph “testing” is taxpayer money wasted.

Los Angeles City Council Committee Votes to Hire Contract Polygraph Services

In an article entitled “Panel seeks to speed LAPD hiring,” David Zahniser of the Torrance, Calif. Daily Breeze reports on the 24 September 2001 meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Excerpt:

The committee … recommended hiring a private firm to handle the backlog of more than 500 job applicants waiting to take the LAPD’s polygraph exam, one of a barrage of tests given to applicants.

While written exams can be given to a roomful of applicants, lie-detector tests must be administered one at a time. As a result, the LAPD now faces a backlog of 500 to 600 officer candidates awaiting the exam — a factor that is causing some applicants to lose interest in the LAPD.

The Public Safety Committee voted Monday to recommend that a private company be paid up to $615,000 to address that backlog. And it called for four new positions within the LAPD to handle the complicated tests on a permanent basis.

The private company to which the Committee recommended that a contract be awarded seems to be US Investigation Services, Inc. For discussion of the Committee’s actions, and for the text of the meeting agenda, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, “L.A. City Council Mtg. Monday, 24 Sep.”