In its continuing effort to bring best practices to its operations, the Houston Police Department identified and reviewed 325 polygraph examinations after we sought a review of our polygraph unit to determine whether better standards exist using the polygraph as a law enforcement tool.
The police department voluntarily asked for assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI) in May 2006 to help review a sample of polygraph exams conducted by HPD examiners to ensure that the best practices and the latest technology and training were being utilized. As a result of that DoD review, the department reviewed the 325 criminal and administrative investigations identified over a two-year period (2004-2006)
by the Inspections Division in which an examination showed a possibility that an individual being tested was not being deceptive (NDI- No Deception Indicated) or where results were inconclusive (INC). The Inspections Division notified all investigative divisions with polygraph examinations to review all NDI and INC cases to ascertain if the polygraph was a determining
factor or had an impact in clearing an individual in an investigation.
A review of each case found none involved the polygraph exam as having a major impact in an investigation.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said, “Because there is no national accreditation or certification process for polygraph examiners, we were seeking the current best practices in order to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of operations within the police department.” The Chief added, “There were no major issues with the way we conducted examinations within
HPD; however, recognizing that polygraph examination is an art and not a science with varying levels of competency, we wanted to make sure our examiners’ skill levels conformed with federal standards.”
The DoD suggested the police department’s five polygraph examiners meet federal standards by undergoing an additional 80 hours of training over two years to acquire additional knowledge and best practices available in polygraphy.
The police department also implemented four other recommendations made by DoDPI in August 2006 to improve performance in our polygraph unit. The DoDPI’s recommendations and HPD’s responses:
· Upgrade security, equipment and examination facilities – Most equipment
and facilities have been updated. The final step is to use approved grant
funding to install surveillance cameras and a monitor in the polygraph
· Implement formal quality control review and writing of polygraph reports –
· Modify pre-employment testing technique by using Law Enforcement
Pre-Employment Test – completed.
· Modify the Polygraph Unit’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to model
federal polygraph guidelines – completed.
It is of utmost importance to note that results of polygraph examinations are inadmissible in a court of law, and therefore could not be relied upon by investigators as evidence in a case. Polygraphs are only defined as law enforcement tools. We are confident that our polygraph examiners are being trained by the best this country has to offer.