AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and published two previously unavailable Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) polygraph unit policy documents.
The LAPD Polygraph Unit Examiner Reference Guide dated November 2018 and marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” includes rules for scoring polygraph charts as well as question sequences for the various polygraph techniques used by the LAPD polygraph unit, including the Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test format used for screening applicants.
In 2011, AntiPolygraph.org reported that a consortium of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies had created a “Polygraph Law Enforcement Accreditation” (PLEA) program and had in 2010 promulgated a 65-page “Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices,” a copy of which we obtained and published (1.9 MB PDF).
The PLEA consortium continues to function and by 2018 included the Greenville, South Carolina Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the North Carolina Bureau of Investigations, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Virginia State Police, and a federal representative from the National Center for Credibility Assessment.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a newer, 78-page copy (1 MB PDF) of the PLEA Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices dated 25 October 2018. Like the 2010 edition, it is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” on each page, with an additional caveat: “Do Not Copy.” Oh well.
The 2018 edition of the guide includes three new chapters covering, respectively, the Directed Lie Comparison Test (Ch. 11), the Directed Lie Screening Test (Ch. 12), and the Concealed Information Test (Ch. 13).
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained an unredacted copy of the regulation governing the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) polygraph program. The document, marked “For Official Use Only” and titled “Credibility Assessment Program” is DIA Instruction 5200.002 dated 3 July 2014. Of special note is Section 4.22, which seemingly provides for the possible removal of DIA personnel based solely on failure to pass a polygraph screening “test.”
To our knowledge, this policy document has not previously been made public.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s documentation of the polygraph screening technique “used by federal law enforcement agencies during the pre-employment process.”
The 23-page document, dated 3 March 2016, provides instructions for administration of the so-called “Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test” (LEPET), to which applicants for employment with such agencies as the FBI, DEA, ATF, and U.S. Secret Service are subjected.
In 2004, AntiPolygraph.org published an earlier version of this document, dated January 2002, which remains available. The LEPET manual has changed little since this earlier version.
When we first published this document, then recently retired FBI supervisory special agent, scientist, and polygraph expert Drew Campbell Richardson observed regarding it:
This is more or less THE SCRIPT for what you will see and what you will hear. You will see the order, even the very language and characterizations of the foolishness that we have come to know as polygraph screening. This document is sufficiently important that it requires your careful attention and then your careful attention again.
The LEPET manual will remain of great interest to anyone seeking employment with a federal law enforcement agency with a polygraph screening requirement.
AntiPolygraph.org has published a set of documents concerning the San Diego Police Department’s polygraph practices. These documents, which date to 2017, focus primarily on pre-employment polygraph screening.
“DLST” stands for “directed-lie screening test.” Directed-lie “control” questions are ones in response to which the examinee is told to “lie,” unlike probable-lie “control” questions, in which the operator attempts to manipulate the examinee into lying. For more on directed-lie “control” questions, see Chapter 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (beginning at p. 107 of the 5th edition).
The pre-employment script shows that the “test” consists of a “Subtest A” and a “Subtest B.” The relevant questions on Subtest A are:
R1 As an adult, have you received any (other) formal discipline at work?
R2 As an adult / In the last 10 years, have you had any (other) personal involvement with illegal drugs?
There is also an unscored “sacrifice relevant” question:
SR Do you intend to answer the formal discipline and drug involvement questions truthfully?
The directed-lie “control” questions are:
C1 Did you ever lose your temper?
C2 Did you ever violate a minor traffic law?
There are also two irrelevant, or in SDPD’s parlance, “neutral” questions. These are not scored:
N1 Are you now in San Diego?
N2 Are the lights on?
Subtest B includes the following relevant questions:
R3 Have you ever committed any (other) serious crime?
R4 Have you ever committed any (other) sex crime?
The sacrifice relevant question for Subtest B is:
SR Do you intend to answer the “serious crime” and “sex crime” questions truthfully?
The directed-lie “control” questions for Subtest B are:
C3 Did you ever say anything about someone that wasn’t true?
C4 Did you ever violate a rule or regulation?
And finally, the irrelevant questions for Subtest B are:
It should be borne in mind that polygraphy has no scientific basis, and it is common for truthful people to wrongly be branded as liars. If you are facing a polygraph “test,” be it with the San Diego Police Department or any other agency, be sure to download a copy of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for more on polygraphy’s scientific shortcomings, the simplistic methodology on which it relies, and pointers on what you can do to mitigate the risk of wrongly failing when you’re telling the truth.
Wired has published a major investigative article on law enforcement’s use of pre-employment polygraph screening. In The Lie Generator: Inside the Black Mirror World of Polygraph Job Screenings, science/technology writer Mark Harris (@meharris on Twitter) reports based on, among other sources, data gleaned from numerous public record access law requests filed with police and sheriff’s departments across the United States. Excerpt:
Data obtained by WIRED showed vast differences in the outcomes of polygraph tests depending on the examiner each candidate faced. Consider another law enforcement agency that uses polygraphs in its employment process: the Washington State Patrol (WSP). Between late October 2011 and the end of April 2017, the WSP conducted 5,746 polygraph tests on potential recruits. This was the largest data set WIRED received, including copious data on both applicants and examiners. While one examiner failed less than 20 percent of candidates, others failed more than half the applicants they screened. And while two examiners disqualified just four people in more than 1,000 applicants for supposedly having sex with animals, one of their colleagues failed more than 10 times as many for bestiality—around one in 20 of all job seekers. The same examiner was also twice as likely as the rest of his peers to fail applicants on the grounds of child pornography.
There were no further hearings trials for these supposed crimes, and no jury to convince or judge to adjudicate, just scores of otherwise qualified applicants who would now not become Washington state troopers.
“We don’t know which, if any, of the examiners are accurate, but the disparity between them suggests the test is not being used in a way that is at all reliable,” says John Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. And tests that are not reliable, Allen says, cannot be valid.
CBP’s new polygraph screening technique is called the “Test for Espionage, Sabotage, and Corruption” or “TES-C.” AntiPolygraph.org has obtained, and is publishing, CBP documentation regarding this procedure, including the precise questions asked, and their order.
Those who face CBP pre-employment polygraph screening can familiarize themselves with this information to prepare and help protect themselves against a false positive outcome, which is common in this scientifically baseless procedure.
The TES-C consists of two main question series, “Sub-test A” and “Sub-test B.” These are XML files (originally with the LXQ file extension associated with the Lafayette Instrument Company’s LX Polygraph Software; AntiPolygraph.org has substituted the XML extension to make the files readable in web browsers).
The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test A are:
X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.
I1 Irrelevant/Neutral Are the lights on in this room?
I2 Irrelevant/Neutral Are you now sitting down?
SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning/Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?
1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?
1R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?
1R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?
1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?
2R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?
2R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?
2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?
3R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?
3R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?
2C2 Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?
XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.
The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test B are:
X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.
I1 Irrelevant Are the lights on in this room?
I2 Irrelevant Are you now sitting down?
SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning / Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?
1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?
1R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?
1R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?
1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?
2R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?
2R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?
2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?
3R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?
3R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?
2C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?
XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.
The scope of the relevant questions is outlined in a Suitability Scoping Guide (28 kb PDF). A PowerPoint presentation titled “CBP Route Maps” also shows the scope of the relevant questions, revealing, among other things, that the question about “serious criminal activity” includes a wide array of crimes ranging from, among other things, “viewing, downloading, searching, distributing, selling, [or] producing” child pornography, drug possession or use in the past three years, and drug transactions anytime.
A CBP Polygraph TES-C Pre-Test Outline lays out in detail the script to be followed by the polygraph operator administering the TES-C. Applicants are required to sign a CBP Applicant Release of Liability form (92 kb PDF) agreeing “not to sue CBP, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and CBP’s and DHS’s employees, officers, and agents, their heirs, successors, or assigns (the “Released Parties”), and agree to hold the Released Parties harmless of and from any and all actions or omissions, rights or causes of actions, suits, damages, judgments, claims, and demands whatsoever, present or future, in law or in equity, whether known or unknown, which arise out of, result from, occur during, or are connected in any manner with my polygraph examination….”
What other pre-employment test requires such bureacratic CYA?
If the examinee answers “No”, let the examinee know that most information on the Internet is opinion based and often incorrect and misleading.
Tell the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.
If the examinee says “Yes”, they have conducted polygraph research, ask them what information did they learn and where did they get the information.
Again, tell the examinee that “most information on the Internet is incorrect and misleading.”
Inform the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.
Polygraph operators want their examinees to be ignorant about polygraphy. They are not nearly so much concerned about examinees getting “incorrect and misleading” information about polygraphy as they are about them getting factual and correct information about polygraphy and polygraph countermeasures. The polygraph operator will likely arbitrarily accuse any examinee who states that he or she has visited AntiPolygraph.org, or otherwise researched polygraphy, with having employed polygraph countermeasures.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced Senate Bill 1560, which would expand polygraph screening at the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, the bill would block any exemptions to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) pre-employment polygraph requirement (as contemplated by House Resolution 2213) and mandate pre-employment polygraph screening at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In addition, the bill would mandate periodic and random polygraph screening of selected employees of both agencies. The bill has been co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
It would appear that Senator Durbin has introduced this legislation in a cynical ploy to attack Republicans from the right, that is, to appear “tougher on security” than them. House Resolution 2213, which was broadly supported by House Republicans, would allow CBP to waive its pre-employment polygraph requirement for some applicants with prior military or law enforcement experience, which would allow for a more rapid expansion of CBP’s workforce. In January 2017, President Trump signed executive orders mandating the hiring of an additional 5,000 CBP and 10,000 ICE agents.
In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “[polygraph testing’s] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.”
Despite this, in 2010, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, legislation introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) mandating polygraph screening of CBP applicants.
Senator Durbin’s sponsoring of this legislation is hypocritical because he knows that polygraphy is unreliable. Speaking at a 2001 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Issues Surrounding the Use of Polygraphs,” Senator Durbin stated:
As an attorney, I never advised clients to take a polygraph. I just did not believe in them. I still do not. They are largely inadmissible in most courts of law. I think the Federal Supreme Court has ruled, and others have, as well, that they are not admissible. Perhaps State and local courts can reach other conclusions, and there are a variety of reasons for that.
I guess some feel that if a jury saw a polygraph test, they would think, well, that is really the good measure of truthfulness and we do not have to reach our own conclusion, and some who just question whether the science is reliable at all.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. Durbin summarized his position on polygraph screening thus:
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this hearing. I have not thought about this issue a lot since I practiced law, but it has come up more and more and I think part of it has to do with our concern over national security. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we are looking for a quick fix here. We are trying to find some machine that is going to solve our problem. I do not think this is the machine. Thank you.
With Senate Bill 1560, Sen. Durbin is hypocritically seeking a quick fix that he knows isn’t going to solve our problem.
Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat reports on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s pre-employment polygraph screening program:
SAN DIEGO (AP) — David Kirk was a career Marine pilot with a top-secret security clearance and a record of flying classified missions. He was in the cockpit when President George W. Bush and Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden traveled around the nation’s capital by helicopter.
With credentials like that, Kirk was stunned to fail a lie detector when he applied for a pilot’s job with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which guards 6,000 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. After two contentious polygraph sessions that lasted a combined eight hours, Kirk said, he drove home “with my tail between my legs,” wondering how things had gone so wrong.
Two out of three applicants to the CBP fail its polygraph, according to the agency — more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to The Associated Press under open-records requests.
It’s a big reason approximately 2,000 jobs at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency are empty, with the Border Patrol, a part of CBP, recently slipping below 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. And it has raised questions of whether the lie detector tests are being properly administered.
CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the failure rate is too high, but that it’s largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants. He and other law enforcement experts contend the polygraphs are generally working as intended at the agency, which has been trying to root out bribery and other corruption.
Gil Kerlikowske should be asked to document how he knows that the reason the CBP failure rate is so high is “largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants.” A more plausible explanation is that an invalid procedure (polygraph screening) is frequently and predictably producing invalid results.
But others, including lawmakers, union leaders and polygraph experts, contend that the use of lie detectors has gone awry and that many applicants are being subjected to unusually long and hostile interrogations, which some say can make people look deceptive even when they are telling the truth.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he suspects CBP examiners fail applicants to justify their own jobs. He said he worries applicants are being wrongly branded with a “scarlet letter” in the eyes of other potential government employers.
“There seems to be no good explanation, and when we hear so many anecdotal stories, it starts to look like a trend where they feel like they have to fail them, a certain number,” he said. “It makes you angry that people would be put through that.”
Senator Jeff Flake is likely correct. Polygraph operators’ pass/fail rates are compared, and it’s likely that polygraph they don’t want to appear to be “soft” compared to their peers. Sen. Flake raised concern about the level of false positives in the CBP polygraph program in a Judiciary Committee meeting held in June 2016.
In December, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said it was reviewing whether CBP’s polygraphs are effective in hiring. The hiring difficulties have become so acute that the Border Patrol recently took the unusual step of asking Congress to use money earmarked for 300 jobs for other purposes. That raises doubts about President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to add 5,000 agents.
Taking a polygraph became a hiring requirement at CBP in 2012 after a huge hiring surge led to more agents getting arrested for misconduct.
James Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s chief of internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, about 30 applicants admitted during the lie detector test that they were sent by drug cartels; one said he killed his infant son.
One applicant revealed his brother-in-law wanted him to smuggle cocaine on the job, and another said he used marijuana 9,000 times, including the night before his test, according to the Government Accountability Office.
It is true, as James Tomsheck notes, that applicants sometimes admit to disqualifying behavior during pre-employment polygraph examinations.1 But only the most stupid of applicants make such admissions. Any person of reasonable intelligence seeking to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel can pass the polygraph using simple countermeasures (see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect.
Interviews with six applicants who failed to clear the polygraph fit a pattern: The examiner abruptly changes tone, leveling accusations of lying or holding something back. The job-seeker denies it and the questioning goes in circles for hours. Some are invited for a second visit, which ends no differently.
Luis Granado applied to the Border Patrol in 2014 with military experience and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. His father is an agent, and Granado used to proudly try on the badge as a boy.
“This was my dream job,” said Granado, 31, who is now a full-time Air Force reservist in Tucson, Arizona. “I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps forever.”
He said the examiner scolded him for answers that were “too emphatic, too fast” and told him to stop grinding his teeth.
Granado said the examiner was troubled by an admission that he cheated on a test in high school. When he denied ever belonging to a cartel or terrorist group, the examiner stopped and said, “Well, I think you’re being deceptive,” according to Granado. After two sessions that lasted a total of 12 hours, his conditional job offer was rescinded.
CBP declined to comment on individual cases.
Luis Granado’s experience is an all-too-common story, and it’s happening not only to CBP applicants, but also to applicants with other federal agencies with a polygraph screening requirement. See AntiPolygraph.org’s Personal Statements page for examples.
CBP’s Kerlikowske put the agency’s polygraph failure rate at about 65 percent. The AP asked law enforcement agencies across the country for two years of lie-detector data for job applicants, including police departments in the nation’s 10 largest cities and in major towns along the Mexican border. The eight that supplied numbers showed an average failure rate of 28 percent.
Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s internal affairs chief, other federal agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service, had failure rates of less than 35 percent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the only federal agency that supplied data to the AP, failed 36 percent in the last two years.
Mark Handler, editor in chief of the American Polygraph Association, said failure rates of about 30 percent are typical in law enforcement hiring.
Kerlikowske explained that the agency isn’t getting the applicants it wants because the relatively new CBP, created in 2003, “doesn’t have a brand” and is unfamiliar to some.
Among other possible reasons offered by some experts for the agency’s failure rate: CBP may have higher standards than local departments, and it get less-experienced applicants who have never taken a lie detector before.
Agencies can and do set their polygraph pass/fail rates as high or as low as they please. For example, in the late 1990s, the FBI had a pre-employment polygraph failure rate of 20%. But after 9/11, with a surge in the number of applicants, that failure rate more than doubled to 50% by 2002. It is not plausible that this rate increase had anything to do with the FBI having higher hiring standards (they didn’t change) or the fact that applicants had never been polygraphed before. Rather, with more applicants, the FBI felt it could afford to arbitrarily brand a higher percentage of applicants as liars and disqualify them.
The duration of CBP’s testing strikes some experts as unusual.
“If there’s an exam that lasts four to eight hours, your polygrapher is either incompetent or a fool or both,” said Capt. Alan Hamilton, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s recruitment and employment division. His department’s exams last no longer than 90 minutes.
Handler said prolonged, accusatory interviews can lead to failures for people who are telling the truth. Lie detectors measure blood pressure, sweating and breathing.
The relatively lengthy polygraph interrogations at CBP likely result from the fact that the CBP polygraph program was largely created and initially staffed with retired U.S. Secret Service polygraph operators, who could collect their pensions while receiving federal salaries with CBP (“double-dipping”). Lengthy, abusive interrogations have long been a hallmark of the USSS polygraph program. See, for example, the personal statement of Bill Roche.
Polygraphs are generally not admissible in court, and federal law bars private employers from using them to hire. The military doesn’t use them to screen enlistees, and some law enforcement agencies don’t use them in hiring, including the New York Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
CBP, under pressure to hire, recently loosened standards on previous marijuana use and, under a law that took effect in December, can waive polygraphs for veterans with top-secret clearances.
A better solution would be to scrap the polygraph program entirely. Given polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings and vulnerability to simple, easily-learned countermeasures, CBP and other federal agencies should scrap their misplaced reliance on it. See AntiPolygraph.org’s proposed legislation for effecting this outcome.
Kirk, 47, of Friendswood, Texas, applied to CBP in 2013 after 20 years as a Marine officer and calls it one of the worst experiences of his life. In the Marines, “one of our biggest mantras is our honesty and integrity,” he said. “Someone calling me a liar, I take it very personally.”
During the 2013 polygraph exams, he said, he was accused of cheating on his wife and mishandling classified information and was told he acted like a drug trafficker trying to infiltrate the agency. Kirk vehemently denies the allegations.
The accusation of marital infidelity “almost made me want to jump across the desk,” said the father of four. He told the examiner that he tried marijuana in college and says the biggest mark on his record is a speeding ticket.
“They treated me like a criminal,” said Kirk, now a private pilot. “I don’t know who was better qualified than me to fill this position.”
See also this video report produced by the Associated Press, which includes an interview with David Kirk:
AntiPolygraph.org is unaware of any instance where someone attempting to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel was criminally prosecuted. [↩]
Applicants for employment with the Pennsylvania State Police will no longer be required to submit to the pseudoscientific ritual of polygraph screening. Angela Couloumbis reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
HARRISBURG – In a move sparking controversy, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker has quietly scrapped the agency’s long-held practice of administering lie-detector tests to its recruits.
State Police officials confirmed this week that applicants vying to become state troopers will no longer undergo polygraph testing as part of an extensive background check that helps determine their acceptance into the State Police Academy.
A spokesman for the State Police would not say why Blocker ordered the change. The agency also could not immediately provide information on how many candidates fail the test annually, what kind of questions are asked, or whether it has been successful in the past in identifying red flags.
But two state officials familiar with the decision said Blocker told agency managers he believes the testing slows down the hiring process, leading the State Police to lose out on qualified candidates who end up taking jobs elsewhere. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
Blocker is facing pushback from troopers who believe eliminating the polygraph takes away an important tool the agency has used to weed out unqualified applicants.
Joe Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, called it a “bad idea.”
“Right now, people in society want to know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the men and women we hire are of the outmost integrity – and the polygraph test has proven to be an important tool in determining that,” said Kovel.
He said he had expressed the concerns of his union’s membership – more than 4,000 troopers – to Blocker.
Pennsylvania State Troopers Association president Joseph R. Kovel’s misgivings about the decision to scrap the polygraph are misplaced. There is no evidence that polygraph screening results in a more honest police force. For example, there is no documentation that police forces in Pennsylvania, where polygraph screening is generally permitted, are any less honest than police forces in the neighboring state of New Jersey, where state law prohibits polygraph screening of police applicants.
Moreover, as more and more people in society come to understand that polygraph “testing” is a pseudoscientific fraud, the fact that police agencies rely on it in the hiring process will increasingly inspire the opposite of confidence.
Despite debate over the effectiveness and reliability of lie-detector tests, most federal, state and local law enforcement agencies use them when screening applicants. Candidates may be asked, for instance, about sexual activity, employers, past drug use, contact with criminals or legal actions against them.
There are exceptions: the New York City Police Department and the New Jersey State Police, for instance, do not use polygraphs in pre-employment screening.
But particularly at the federal level, the results can automatically disqualify applicants, said George Maschke, a onetime U.S. Army reserve intelligence officer and co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit website that questions the reliability and effectiveness of polygraph testing, as well as the science behind them.
In an interview, Maschke called the State Police’s decision to scrap the test “a wise one.”
He called the science behind them “junk,” and said they can easily be manipulated by knowledgeable applicants. Conversely, he said, the tests can also produce faulty results because the things they measure – such as changes in breathing, perspiration and blood pressure – often occur for reasons other than lying.
“Resentment at being asked an accusatory question, fear of not being believed even though you are telling the truth, embarrassment over being asked a personal question – all sorts of things could cause those changes,” said Maschke. “Even the tone of voice of the interrogators can produce that change.”
Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker is to be commended for his decision to terminate the long-held but invalid practice of polygraph screening. It is inherently biased against the truthful, resulting in many false positives, while liars can easily fool the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect. Other law enforcement agency leaders should take note and follow Commissioner Blocker’s example.