After a pretest interview, the examination
began.  Nearly every question during the
polygraph test revolved around the
officer's marriage.  "Have you ever
cheated on your wife?  Have you ever lied
to your wife?  Have you ever held back
money from your wife?"  The officer
answered no to every question.

The examiner stopped the questioning
for several minutes as he wrote hurriedly
on a note pad.  As the officer sat waiting
for the examiner to continue, he turned
his head toward the machine.  Curious to
see a reaction from the machine, he took
a sudden deep breath to see if the
needles on the machine would react.  The
sudden wide swing of one of the needles
caught the examiner's eye and elicited a
rebuke, "Stop fooling around, and look
straight ahead."

When the examiner resumed the testing,
he continued to focus on the officer's
marriage.  He ask all the same questions
over and over again but with different
variations.  "Have you ever had an affair
during your marriage.  Have you ever had
sex with another woman during your
marriage."  The questions about money
and marriage were similarly varied.

After exhausting the subject of marriage,
money, lies, and sex, the examiner
abruptly concluded the test.  The officer
naturally asked if he'd passed the
examination?  Of course, the examiner
would not share his professional
conclusion with the officer.  You see...
that's part of the polygraph mystique.  
They'll never tell you if you pass or fail.

The officer left the examiner's office
feeling pretty good with himself.  The
examiner didn't have to tell him he'd
passed the test since he'd answered
every question truthfully.

Okay... I know what you're thinking.  All
of the questions were perfectly valid since
an assignment to vice enforcement would
constantly expose the officer to sex and
money.  And... you're absolutely correct.  
However, the examiner made one critical
mistake during the pretest interview.  
While he verified that the officer was
married, he never inquired as to how long
the officer had been married.  In this
case, I'd only been married for two short
weeks.  Had he known that fact, his
questions would have been much
different.  In case you're wondering if I
got the assignment, you'll learn that it
takes a lot more than truthfulness to get
an assignment of your choice.
...just a machine

A polygraph is just a machine.  At the
link I've provided below, you're going to
see the following:  "During a polygraph,
an examiner is always paying attention to
these fundamental clues and cues,
developing a sense of the suspect's
values, beliefs, motives, and attitudes."  
Talk about everything being in the eye of
the beholder.  It doesn't sound much
different from what you'll be doing every
time you interview or interrogate a victim
or suspect respectively.  Another thing
you'll learn is that the polygraph was
never developed, or intended, for law
enforcement; although, its use in law
enforcement has become widespread.  
Oh, well... that's cops for you... always
looking for a shortcut.
"Lombroso, the founding father of
criminology in 1895, was the first to
experiment with a machine measuring
blood pressure and pulse to record the
honesty of criminals. He called it a
hydrosphygmograph. A similar device
was used by Harvard psychologist William
Marston during World War I in espionage
cases, who brought the technique into
American court systems. In 1921, John
Larson added the item of respiration
rate, and by 1939, Leonard Keeler, one
of the founding fathers of forensic
science, added skin conductance and an
amplifier, thus signaling the birth of the
'polygraph' as we know it today."  
A young police officer once applied for
reassignment to a vice unit in a major
police department.  A polygraph
examination was required, and it was
administered by the department's full
time polygraph examiner.  The examiner
had more than twenty years experience,
and he was considered to be a highly
qualified expert in his field.
The polygraph is getting a lot of use
these days for preemployment hiring of
police officers.  It's probably a legitimate
use since the person is a relatively
unknown quantity.  Any deception
indicated would be an aid in conducting a
background investigation.  However, if
any perceived deception is, in and of
itself, the determining factor for denying
employment, that person becomes the
victim of one man's, or woman's,

After you become a police officer, you'll
notice that the only time a criminal
suspect, or police officer, is asked to take
a polygraph examination is when the
investigator has already concluded, by
other investigative methods, that he or
she is lying.  So, when you hear a
polygraph described as an investigative
aid, you might want to take a closer look
at the investigator.
"...the polygraph was never
developed, or intended, for law
enforcement; although, its use in law
enforcement has become
widespread." ~ Barry M. Baker
Police and the

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Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
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