Polygraph Experience of Bill Roche
Ever since I was a young child, I had always dreamed of becoming a Secret Service agent. I was always impressed with what I perceived to be the poise and professionalism of the agents as they conducted their protective mission.
I have always been fascinated with government, and the Presidency. I dreamed of what it would be like to work in the White House.
After graduating second in my police academy, I became a police officer and eventually I was selected to become a Detective in the financial crimes unit of my agency. I received numerous commendations and was our community's Officer of the Year.
During my tenure as a detective, I had the opportunity to work with and lead Secret Service agents on criminal investigations out of the local Field Office. The agents were very impressed with my leadership and investigative ability.
In October of 1997 I applied to become a Secret Service Agent. I passed the pre-employment portion and was treated with professionalism during each phase of the testing process.
The interview panel went great. The panel of veteran agents said I was mature beyond my years (30 years of age) and rated me above average for the position of Special Agent.
I was scheduled to take a pre-employment polygraph examination. I have taken and passed with flying colors three previous pre-employment polygraph examinations that were administered by experts in the field.
I knew the polygraph was just a stepping stone in the process and I looked forward to the polygraph corroborating my ethics and honesty, and moving onto the next phase of the testing process.
In October of 1998, I was scheduled to take a polygraph at the Field Office. I looked forward to the Secret Service polygraph examination. Having been administered very professional polygraphs in the past, I had no doubt this polygraph would be the same.
After a brief introduction by Secret Service Agent Polygraphist L. Robert Savage III, Agent Savage advised me of my Miranda rights. I was shocked, and bewildered. Agent Savage then began the initial interview regarding national security questions.
The national security portion of the polygraph was administered. I provided my truthful answers on the examinations. As each question was asked, I felt great. I couldn't have been more honest. My conscience was clear.
Special Agent Savage left the room to score the polygraph charts. I was not even concerned about the findings. Agent Savage re-entered the room. As I remained seated, Agent Savage stood over me and said I was not a threat to national security; however, my scores in the other areas were not within an acceptable range, and that I would need to reduce my scores if I was going to get through the remainder of the test.
I was shocked. I knew I had answered each question honestly. I started to panic. I knew that if the polygraph could not corroborate when I was telling the truth, I would never get through this polygraph. Agent Savage's comment that I needed to reduce my scores perplexed me. The only way to reduce my scores would be to tell the truth. However, I couldn't have been more honest if I opened my veins and bled.
As I sat there, I remembered hearing about people who said they were innocent, but failed a polygraph examination. I always thought these people were just whining, and the polygraph had scientific credibility and reliability. As I sat there in the Secret Service polygraph examination room, I knew my career hung in the balance of a machine that is the equivalent to witchcraft.
[Note: The area that Special Agent Savage told me I was failing was the control questions. However, an applicant is ignorant of the importance of control question and when I was advised I was failing the test, I understood it as I was failing the test. Refer to the frequently asked questions for further analysis.]
I was devastated over the comments made by Agent Savage. The examiner moved onto the next area of the polygraph, which was serious crimes and drug usage.
While still stimulated from Agent Savage's comments from the first polygraph, I was administered my second of three polygraphs for the day. Agent Savage told me the second polygraph showed I was having difficulty with the drug question. I became furious and I angrily denied the accusations and interrogation statements. With my hands trembling out of pure, unadulterated anger, a third polygraph was administered.
Secret Service Agent Savage told me I was still being deceptive and he interrogated me. Finally, Agent Savage concluded the polygraph approximately seven hours after it started, having run nine polygraph charts.
I was so angry when I left the field office. I knew what I had just experienced went against my advanced training and experience in interview and interrogation. I was so angry I could not sleep for over twenty-two hours. Even at 10:00am the next morning, my hands were still trembling.
Approximately two weeks later, I returned to the Field Office to be administered a second series of polygraph examinations. It was a different examiner, but after my last experience, I felt like a dog waiting to be beat by his master. Once inside the room, I looked around. I couldn't help but think what happened to me last time. The unprofessional conduct and the level of anger I had experienced. The room had the feeling of the many crime scenes I have experienced where a violent and traumatic event had taken place.
This time the examiner was Secret Service Agent Polygraphist Ignacio Zamora Jr. Agent Zamora provided me my Miranda rights. Agent Zamora told me the previous polygraph with Agent Savage showed I was having difficulty in the areas of honesty and integrity. This really angered me. As I mentioned earlier, I could not have been more honest. I told the examiner the previous polygraph examiner told me I was deceptive in the area of serious crimes and drug usage. The examiner replied that was, "not necessarily true."
Using basically the same ineffective control questions, Agent Zamora administered the second polygraph. Agent Zamora returned saying I was still having difficulties in the area of honestly and integrity, but also the drug issue. Again, this infuriated me. I angrily denied these baseless allegations.
The interview/interrogation moved onto other areas. At one point during the interview/interrogation, Secret Service Agent Ignacio Zamora Jr. yelled at me in a forceful voice while simultaneously slapping his thigh and then extending his arm directly toward me with his index finger pointing directly at me causing my body to react backward as if I was about to be hit. Agent Zamora, with his index finger extended toward me, and sitting within a very close proximity exclaimed with a contorted face, "I hope you're not that type of person, because if you are we don't want you in the Secret Service." Agent Zamora then pointed to the tape recorder and said, "I'll even say that on tape."
Again, after angrily denying Agent Zamora's baseless accusations, I was administered two more polygraphs with my hands still trembling out of anger. Prior to starting the third polygraph, I told Agent Zamora I believed the results of the exam would be affected by the stimulation I was subjected to, in particular, anger. Agent Zamora told me the polygraph does not measure anger.
At the conclusion of the six-hour day and nine polygraph charts, I was told I was being deceptive and dismissed for the day.
Being a police investigator, and having received advanced training in the area of interview and interrogation (which was instructed by polygraph examiners), I knew what I had been subjected to by the Secret Service was wrong. The behavior was so atrocious that if I were conducting a criminal investigation with the Secret Service and I saw one of their examiners treat a suspect in this manner, I would immediately stop the examination, and ban the Secret Service from the investigation.
What I had experienced in these two polygraph examinations has forever changed my life. I had the perception that law enforcement officers always maintained the same integrity and work ethic as I. Unfortunately that is not the case. Read about what happened next in Bill Roche vs. the Secret Service & APA.