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Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined? (Read 2636 times)
Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box logan2609
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Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Jun 9th, 2011 at 1:31pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Hello all,

This is a summary of my recent experience with a polygraph exam for a major police agency in Texas.

I was employed for seven years in an adjacent municipality as a peace officer.  I hired on at the previous agency at 21.  I was polygraphed to begin employment there, and was polygraphed during the BI process.  I was polygraphed twice, and was told I failed the first test due to drug use history (I have never consumed illegal drugs of any form).  I asked for a re test and passed it, and was advanced and eventually hired.
After several years working patrol with that agency, I was transferred to special operations and worked as an undercover investigator working vice/narcotics.  I dealt with everything from street level drug sales, prostitution, and gambling, all the way to higher level cases involving child porn, organized crime, and internet related solicitation of minors.  I had no polygraph experience as a criminal investigator, as courts found them unreliable, and that's good enough for us, since spending time and energy on investigative process that they wont consider as evidence is counter productive.
After doing that for several years, I developed some unhealthy drinking habits along with depression, and was subsequently terminated after an administrative investigation.  The basic details of my firing was after a night of drinking with coworkers at a party out in the country, I engaged in target practice with my service weapon.  There was no malice or criminal acts involved, and was generally looked upon as drunken choir practice shenanigans.  The "funny story of the week" was leaked to the brass via loose lips locker room gossip. Looking back I rather stupidly admitted to IA that I thought I had developed a drinking problem and wanted help.  I remember comments from commanders and IAD personnel that the circumstances regarding it were "unprecedented" and "unfair" to me the day the chief fired me, and plenty of comments like "hundreds of guys here have done that".  Additionally, there had been some serious issues with drunk cops in our area that had happened and hit the media after my incident and investigation had begun, and it seemed the chief needed to fire a body for alcohol related malfeasance to save his political skin.
I'm not interested in debating the seriousness of it, it was serious, or the fairness, but the consequences were dire to me, and those as a motivating factor to not experience anything like them again, I used the time that was left in my insurance policy to check into alcohol dependency treatment.  I followed that up with regular 12 step meetings.
I regard myself as one of the lucky ones regarding alcohol dependency, as I took to it and will have two years sober at the end of this month.
After being fired, and exhausting my appeals (a weird episode in itself) I began to look for other area agencies to pick me up.  I figured my experience would give me a leg up over my misconduct, especially to some smaller ones.  I began the backgrounds process for the current agency in question, and by the time I received a conditional offer of employment from them, I was told I was their "top" candidate.  Here, the BI is conducted and the polygraph is taken afterwards. 
I was scheduled for a polygraph exam and went, thinking nothing of it, I was completely candid and forthcoming with them about the issues above, and figured those would be what prevented me from hiring if anything would, and since I had already been offered the job pending completion of the poly and the psychological screening, I figured I was in.
I was wrong.  The examiner advised I failed the questions, "Have you used marijuana in the past five years?" and "Did you intentionally leave off anything concerning your disciplinary history with your previous employer."

I was floored.  I have never used marijuana, but admitted to being exposed to smoke from it more times that I could count, and simulated smoking it several times as a UC officer, before the exam began.  I was told by the examiner that this didn't matter, as stuff like that would not effect the result.  I persisted that the only exposure I've ever had to it has been at work, and I've been sober from not just alcohol but all potential mood and mind altering chemicals for at this point almost two years.  The examiner said "Yes, that question you passed, but there MUST BE something else you are trying to conceal."
The disciplinary history question was even more bizarre to me, as all I could say to it was, "You realize I have already disclosed this information, and the background investigator ALREADY verified it right?"  The examiner said, "Well, there is SOMETHING there isn't there?"
By this point in the process I had already signed a document authorizing him to inspect my personnel file at my last job, and he had already interviewed my old supervisor and checked my IA file.  There were no surprises, as I had disclosed everything.
I couldn't believe it.  I called the backgrounds supervisor and said, if there is a grievance process I want to initiate it, he said they don't currently have one, but he would look into it.  I moped home and waited for the bad news.  A few days later I was called and asked to come back for a second polygraph, at a different location.  I went back to the backgrounds office to complete another "Pre Polygraph questionnaire" and chatted with my background investigator for a few minutes.
He told me that every candidate they sent to that place failed.  He said he had never heard of such a thing before, and those of us that had not already withdrawn would be going again to a different location.
On the day of the exam, I was less nervous than on the first one, as this had all happened to me before, and obviously the first test had to have been rigged or the examiner was crappy to fail several people that were all qualified LE veterans.
I walked in and sat down and disclosed everything to the polygraph examiner that transpired up to now.  He asked "Where did you take the exam?"  I told him.  Then he asked "Did (last examiner by first name) administer it?"  I immediately thought, "Oh crap, they are friends."
On this exam, I was told, "There is not a strong enough result" to assert that I was lying on my disciplinary history, my belief being that the if examiner knew I could offer documents to prove his results were inaccurate, I might be able to cause him problems.  He still failed me on the marijuana question.
The marijuana exchange went like this, "I can't pass you there is something you're not admitting to about your marijuana use.  The results are too strong."
Me "Well can I take it again, that's completely wrong."
Examiner "No, now that we have discussed it, it would just be a stronger reaction."
Me "You don't think the fact that I was accused of this by another polygraph examiner has anything to do with it?"
Examiner "Not at all."
Me "But you just said talking about it would affect the results."
He was silent for a while, and then said "Sorry, we are done. Good luck."
So here I am trying to make sense of this.  We got regular drug tests at my old job, and voluntarily submitted exposure forms if we felt like we might have gotten exposed to narcotics on the job as a CYA measure.  Since then I've been an active participant in recovery and have taken several drug tests for other jobs I've held in the meantime.  I've asked for treatment records from every place I've taken a drug test, and a couple were hair follicle that can determine use over a period of months so I'm told.  However these are going to take a while to gather. 
I still don't understand why I failed it. 
I'm beginning to think drug use questions would be nearly impossible for people to verify if they don't drug test themselves monthly for a period of years preceding a polygraph exam, and is therefor a safe way for examiners to fail people that their friends fail.
I do not know at this point.  I guess its back to roofing houses or working in the oil fields.
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Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box stefano
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #1 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 1:58pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
logan2609,

Thanks for sharing; I was moved by your story. Yes, another victim of the charlatans surfaces. What happened to you is total B.S. Multiple Issue testing is nonsense--even the APA says single issue successive hurdle testing is requisite. Also, the polygraph technique does not allow for calling individual questions as being deceptive or not--a DI, NDI or I is required for the entire "exam"--there is no line item veto. It's too bad I could not get this jerk into a courtroom for cross examination--I'd turn him into a quivering blob of insecurity within 20 minutes. There is nothing wrong with roofing houses, it's honest work and you will have much more peace of mind. Good luck friend.
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #2 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 2:30pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Thanks for taking the time.  I do not currently understand the intricacies of the scoring procedures, but I gather that they can not fail someone based on one question?  They have to score the entire chart?  I don't understand how I can pass a question like "Have you ever done illegal drugs" and then turn around and "Fail" the marijuana one.  It doesn't make too much sense to me.
I'm having a difficult time accepting my fate with this, as I feel like I've gone through too much to get back to where I need to be.  I would rather not exit LE forever on these terms, so if I have the ability to cause some legal mayhem for these polygraph people for the common good then so be it.  I'm not the only LE guy around here with a horror story with these things believe me.
Also, how binding are those liability releases they ask you to sign  prior to taking the exam?  Also, I have access to online journals through my university.  Has anyone authored a recent study on these I could reference?
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Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box Bill_Brown
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #3 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 2:35pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Logan,

I am a Polygraph Examiner.  As Stefano has mentioned, the examiner did not do the "successive hurdle test".  I would suggest you contact both the American Polygraph Association and the American Association of Police Polygraphists.  If your examiner is a member of either organization file a complaint. 

I am sorry you went through this ordeal and wish you success in the future. 

Stefano,

You are on target and I would join you in testimony in this situation if it occurred.  Are you the famous "Dr. R"?  Just kidding. 
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #4 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 2:54pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Thank you for taking the time.  I'm still clicking around trying to figure out what you guys mean by "successive hurdle test".

The testing format was two separate strings of questions.  Each string was done twice.  Some were what I have now learned as "relevant" and some were nonsensical like "Have you ever done anything you were ashamed of that you haven't told me." and probably a control?

There didn't seem to be any consistency with question order or anything.  The only difference I can be sure about is on the first one I took for the new job, both the marijuana and disciplinary questions were in the same string, and on the second the discipline question was first string, and the marijuana question was second string.  Both times, the marijuana question was bracketed on one side or the other with the illegal drugs question, to which no problems arose as far as I know.

Bill, I appreciate your input, I will check all of that out.  My aim here is to get a fair shot, not screw someone up.  How does stuff like that typically go down once a complaint is filed?
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Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box stefano
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #5 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 3:30pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Quote:
I'm still clicking around trying to figure out what you guys mean by "successive hurdle test".

Logan,

Please read item 14.7 on page 7 of the attached.
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #6 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 3:48pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Oh wow.  Thank you sir.  After reading through it once they didn't do ANY of this. 

Bullet 3.3 stuck out.  Passing it was mandatory to hire.
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Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box Bill_Brown
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #7 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 5:33pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Neither organization has "Regulatory" authority.  It does bring an examiners failure to their attention by what is considered "Best Practices".  It will have no effect on your reported "deception" on the polygraphs.  Usually the APA or AAPP will contact the examiner and question why they did or did not follow proper protocol.  You can help the next candidate in this manner.  If your state has a licensing board for polygraph, a complaint to the board may also help. 

The document Stefano posted is a suggested methodology by the APA.  It cannot be enforced, it is suggested.   Enough complaints about this type of activity may spark a change in the polygraph community. 

I would also continue to apply to other agencies, and explain your problem with polygraph if asked.  Several persons on this board did encounter the same problem, went to other agencies and were successful.  Don't give up your dream. 

Best of luck

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« Last Edit: Jun 9th, 2011 at 7:52pm by Bill_Brown »  
 
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Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box stefano
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Re: Failed Polygraph-LEO Career Ruined?
Reply #8 - Jun 9th, 2011 at 7:02pm
Mark & Quote Quote 
Bill_Brown wrote on Jun 9th, 2011 at 5:33pm:
If your state has a licensing board for polygraph, a complaint to the board may also help.

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation:
PO Box 12157
Austin, TX 78711

512-463-6599
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