N Touch
Thursday 13 December 2018
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Editorial

Detecting lies

THE REPORT that several police officers have blanked a lie detector test mandated by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has a raised a number of questions about the appropriateness of polygraphs within the Police Service. We applaud Griffith’s bold action in mandating this test, which we find to be consistent with the terms of service of a police officer. However, we warn that for this measure to truly bite it must be applied fairly and consistently, not selectively.

Polygraph testing is a standard recruitment tool and the complaint of these officers that they are being made to comply with procedures they did not sign up for does not sit well with the rules they are mandated by law to serve under. Section 3 of the Police Service Regulations stipulates that in order for an individual to be accepted as a trainee within the service, that individual must undergo a polygraph test.

In an effort to weed out bad apples who may be complicit in the illegal entry of drugs and guns at our coastal areas, Griffith has imposed a polygraph test that asks pointed questions related to this problem. The measure is simply a logical extension of the procedure all police officers undergo upon entry to the service. In fact, it would be strange if officers were subject to a polygraph at the start of a potentially decades-long career then never tested once they have entered the service.

The contention of the 25 officers who have refused to be tested that the polygraphs are not in keeping with the terms and conditions of their employment is simply illogical. That said, to subject some officers to polygraph tests and not others has the potential to turn the polygraph procedure into a punitive one. It places officers under a pall of suspicion when there may be no basis for such.

As such, polygraph testing should be part of a wider, structured approach to finding out who the bad apples are and plucking them out. Pointing fingers to only certain divisions or geographic locations risks smearing officers unduly.

We applaud any lawful effort to assist in the elimination of the illegal drug trade. But those efforts should stretch to all portions of the country if the objective is the total elimination of the problem. Otherwise, we are simply transferring bad apples from one division to another. And the officers in question have legal rights and this matter could well end up in court.

In the meanwhile, a compromise should be brokered between Griffith and the Police Social and Welfare Association to work out a consensus approach to lie detectors. That approach should become a set policy, applicable across the board. All officers should serve with the knowledge that their integrity is something they must maintain not only at the start of their careers but as long as they continue to be a part of the Police Service.

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