Receiving a certificate to hang on your office wall is a wonderful feeling. It shows you have worked hard and attained recognition in a specialized area of knowledge. In the daily routine of life, though, maybe you have forgotten about that framed document. Stop and look at it now. Have you continued to expand your skills, staying up to date on the latest advances in your field? Learning is a lifelong process, and it’s even more exciting when you get together with colleagues to brainstorm and share your knowledge.
This was the goal of NITV Federal Services’ 29th Annual Professional Development and Continuing Education Conference, which was held in conjunction with the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts (NACVSA). At least 140 law enforcement professionals from around the globe gathered in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, for the event this January. Many of the attendees at the five day conference were seasoned CVSA Examiners looking to advance their skills, though some were newer to the innovative world of CVSA. The participants all had one thing in common though—they’d had great success utilizing the CVSA as a truth verification tool in criminal cases and were eager to discover more ways this technology could aid their investigations.
The Story of CVSA
What brought everyone together was the CVSA, a reliable truth verification tool that has helped nearly 2,000 law enforcement agencies detect deception in suspect or witness statements. Our CVSA Examiners come from the Atlanta P.D., Nashville P.D., Miami P.D., New Orleans P.D., Kansas City P.D., and the California Highway Patrol.
The original Voice Stress Analyzer was introduced in 1971, and CVSA technology as we know it today hit the scene in 1988. The system is so effective—with no known countermeasures—that correctional institutions throughout the U.S. have adopted it as both a screening device for new hires and to help solve crimes within the prison system. For law enforcement, the CVSA is an invaluable tool for obtaining confessions from guilty suspects, clearing the names of the innocent, and gathering verifiable information from witnesses.
Learning from the Experts
Some of the highlights of the conference were lectures by valued members who have advanced knowledge in specialized areas. One such person was Marigo Stathis, a neuroscientist who co-authored a peer-reviewed field study of the CVSA with Professor James Chapman. Marigo has a deep understanding of the scientific workings of the CVSA, but she’s also great at translating the data into everyday language. Her lecture discussed the protocols of the Chapman study and described how they discovered that the CVSA has an accuracy rate of 99.69%, a precision rate of 99.67%, and a verified confession rate of 96.4 %.
The CVSA can also be used as a preventative measure to ensure you are hiring the right people for your agency. Atlanta P.D. Chief CVSA Examiner Cliff Payne led an informative session on utilizing the CVSA as an investigative tool in the pre-employment screening process. The Atlanta P.D. now has ten CVSAs, which are used for criminal investigations such as homicides, sex crimes, robberies, and kidnapping, as well as background screenings. His department realized the value of the CVSA fifteen years ago when they transitioned from the old-style polygraph system.
The most horrific crimes law enforcement encounters are crimes against children. Det/Sgt. Jerry Crotty lectured on techniques he developed for interviewing suspected pedophiles when they are apprehended in police “sting operations.” The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Federal Task Force actively pursues individuals who prey on children online, and when these individuals are apprehended, Det/Sgt. Crotty interviews them and conducts a CVSA examination. Det/Sgt. Crotty—utilizing the Defense Barrier Removal (DBR) technique in combination with the CVSA—has a high confession rate and has solved many complex child sex crime cases.
Two of our Canadian brothers, Don Wiebe and Bob Wall from Vancouver, shared their expertise in Advanced Interview and Interrogation techniques. Don and Bob teach the acclaimed Analytic Interviewing System (AIS) offered by NFS. AIS is a proven interview method used to gain valid, admissible confessions without the use of pressure or coercion.
Another stand-out lecturer was Chief Bill Endler, who taught advanced chart interpretation techniques and question formulation techniques. Endler also described utilizing the CVSA during terrorism investigations based on his experience working with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). During initial hostilities in Iraq, the DIA contracted with NFS to have Chief Endler conduct CVSA exams on Saddam Hussain’s top staff. The polygraph and other interrogation methods had produced no confessions or actionable information, but within a short period, Chief Endler had gained “actionable intelligence” from almost every individual he examined with the CVSA.
Chief Endler’s experience in terrorism investigations puts him at the forefront of this growing national security issue. He also conducted terrorism exams for the Pakistani National Police while conducting training in Pakistan. When Pakistani authorities are unable to obtain information from a suspected terrorist within an allotted time-frame, they must release the suspect under Pakistani law. As the clock was ticking down to such a release, Chief Endler was brought in to conduct a CVSA examination, and the terrorist ultimately confessed to both the alleged crime and additional crimes the Pakistani police weren’t aware of, leading to the recovery of a large cache of weapons, explosives, and drugs.
Awarding Excellence in the Field
Our annual conference is a time to celebrate outstanding achievements in the field, and we were proud to honor investigator Mike DeFrancisco with the fifth annual (2016) Professor James L. Chapman Award for Excellence. DeFrancisco, of the Columbus Division of Fire, Fire and Explosive Investigations Unit (OH), has contributed immensely to the CVSA community by applying the technology to arson and explosive cases. Such cases have less than a 5% solve rate nationwide, but Mike has helped his unit exceed a 20% clearance rate for such investigations—four times greater than the national average. Mike has also dedicated his time to serving as a board member and the Director for Region 1 of the NACVSA since its inception.
We haven’t forgotten another important factor about the 2017 Conference—it was a valuable chance to connect as a community. Getting together with colleagues we have come to consider friends and meeting new people is always a good time. We welcomed new people at the “Meet and Greet,” we shared stories over breakfast, and told a few bad jokes at the nightly cocktail function. Some of our guests from out of town got to spend some free time exploring beautiful Lake Buena Vista. The real takeaway was that each attendee went back to their local agency with new information to share and a renewed vigor for taking their investigation skills to the next level.
Please reach out to us at NITV Federal Services to learn more about our CVSA systems and training programs.