Police Chief Uses Polygraph to Spot Racists

He's trying to keep them off the force using lie detector test
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 8, 2013 11:01 AM CST
Police Chief Uses Polygraph to Spot Racists
This Feb. 13, 2013 photo shows Coopertown, Tenn., Police Chief Shane Sullivan at the Coopertown City Hall.   (Mark Humphrey)

A police chief hired to rebuild a tiny Tennessee department dismantled by scandal is using a lie-detector test to keep racists off his force. Coopertown Police Chief Shane Sullivan took over the department in November, becoming the 11th chief in as many years. He was hired on the heels of a series of police scandals that for a few months left Coopertown with no police at all. Years before that, a mayor was voted out of office after the local prosecutor accused him of racism and running a notorious speed trap; he was accused of ordering police to target Hispanics, out-of-towners, and soldiers from nearby Fort Campbell, Ky., for traffic tickets.

Then, the only full-time patrolman was fired over a road rage incident and the reserve officer was dismissed after a dashboard camera captured him using a racial slur to describe a black motorist. Soon after, the police chief quit. Law enforcement experts say Sullivan's polygraph approach is unusual, though some departments use the devices for other purposes during the application process. Sullivan said he doubts racists will even apply for the force if they know about the tests, which require candidates to answer whether they have ever committed a hate crime or a race-based crime. "I think the polygraph will definitely keep these people from applying," the 39-year-old chief said. "I've told a couple of ones about the polygraph who have not called me back." (Read more lie detector test stories.)

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