After Tribune Probe, Chicago Police Cut Use of Polygraphs


After decades of relying on controversial polygraph examinations to help solve crimes, the Chicago Police Department has drastically scaled back on the use of lie-detector tests in criminal investigations, reports the city’s Tribune. In what appears to be a shift in focus, the department’s polygraph unit examiners, who previously worked under the forensic services division, have been relocated to human resources, where their primary responsibility is administering tests to police officer candidates.

The examiners continue to conduct criminal polygraphs as the need arises, a police spokesman said. Yet the number of criminal polygraphs has dropped considerably, from about 400 in 2011 to 50 in the first eight months of 2013. The timing of the examiners’ move to the personnel unit corresponded with a Tribune investigation into the polygraph unit’s role in obtaining false confessions. Critics decried the department’s use of polygraphs, claiming the examiners employed it as an interrogation prop to extract confessions. Some detractors also questioned the validity of the polygraph itself, calling it junk science.

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