Philadelphia Gets Rid of Lie-Detector Tests

A directive was issued this week by the Philadelphia Police Department that removes the passage of a lie detector test as a condition of employment. The Department made the decision after reviewing recent studies that show polygraph tests to be unreliable, often measuring a person’s nervousness as opposed to honesty. “I think that there are a lot of applicants who would have made outstanding police officers that were rejected because they couldn’t pass the polygraph,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. Johnson argued that in the face of a recent wave of Philadelphia corruption scandals that clearly the polygraph is not weeding out all the potentially corrupt candidates, and that the department can better uncover character flaws by doing more extensive background checks. He also added that drug screening, which is one of the prime purposes of the polygraph, is more accurately done through new hair sampling techniques. There has been some dissent among anonymous Philadelphia officials, who argue that officers need as much screening as possible, and that the polygraph is good at catching bad candidates. Many cities in the U.S. still use polygraph tests, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix and Dallas. However, New York City, and many other cities, have never used them, and have no plans to instate them.


Philadelphia Inquirer, 05/21/02

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