Philly Cops Use Polygraph Tests for Applicants Despite High Failure Rate


Sixty-three percent of finalists for Philadelphia Police Department positions fails polygraph tests but Commissioner Charles Ramsey will retain them as a screening device even though they are not perfect, Deputy Police Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer wrote about the case of applicant Greg Thomas, an investigator for the city court system who failed two polygraph questions and was rejected for a police job.

Thomas was told he gave unbelievable denials to inquiries about whether he’d used, sold, or handled illegal drugs within the last five years and whether he’d committed a serious crime, caught or not. This year, Ramsey reinstated polygraph tests, which had not been used since 2002. Most big-city police departments use polygraphs for hiring, says George Maschke, a polygraph critic. New York City does not, nor do any departments in New Jersey. Maschke calls the tests “junk science,” and says they measure anxiety, not deception. Nathan Gordon, director of the company that won the contract to test Philadelphia recruits, says his exams sort the perspiring from the lying. He says that industrywide, the tests are only 85 to 95 percent accurate.

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