Polygraphs for All Don't Remove Lie Tests for All State Police Recruits

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

Polygraphs for All Don't Remove Lie Tests for All State Police Recruits


The Pennsylvania State Police have discontinued the use of lie-detector tests for trooper recruits, saying it bogs down the screening process and results in losing qualified applicants to other law-enforcement agencies. This represents a dumbing down of the vetting process at a time law-enforcement agencies nationwide are under a microscope because of concerns about overzealous policing. If state police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker won't reverse his decision to eliminate polygraphs from the screening process, Gov. Tom Wolf should step in and order the tests reinstated.

While they are not admissible in court, lie-detector tests serve a useful purpose in helping investigators weed out suspects in criminal cases. They serve a similar purpose in the recruitment of police officers; the probing questions enable examiners to identify trooper candidates who don't have what it takes or have something troubling in their pasts. Joe Kovel, president of the union representing troopers, said polygraphs on occasion have disclosed information that triggered criminal investigations and charges against applicants.

The state police wouldn't say how many applicants fail polygraphs or whether the tests had indeed turned up criminal activity by job seekers. Perhaps that's because the answers to those questions would underscore the folly of diluting the screening process. At any rate, it's disingenuous for Commissioner Blocker, whose agency uses polygraphs in criminal investigations, to say they're not all that important for trooper screening.

This is the same commissioner who, less than a year ago, acknowledged concerns about cheating at his training academy. In a number of stories last year, Pennlive.com reported that more than two dozen cadets had been dismissed for misconduct and that the use of old tests and other questionable practices at the academy fostered a climate where cheating was possible. …

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