The CVSA is a valuable tool for vetting potential hires.

The CVSA is a valuable tool for vetting potential hires. Image source: Flickr user Ryo FUKAsawa.

This is the job many have dreamed about, some since they were children. Maybe, after years in the field, you remember the first time you put on a police uniform and the gravitas hit you—you are responsible for the safety of others. You are now part of an institution that is the ethical core of the community, and it is up to you to honor that mission by being truthful and uncovering the truth in the name of justice.

Unfortunately for those aspiring recruits but fortunately for the community, a recruit sometimes doesn’t make it past the initial pre-employment interview. A good police interviewer is skilled at getting honest answers whether they are questioning suspects or potential hires. Those who work in recruitment and HR can hone in on areas of weakness, and it is their goal to cull those who would be a detriment to the organization. As part of this process, most police agencies carefully vet their recruits with a truth verification examination to ensure that only the best candidates move into the next phase.

The Moment of Truth in the Pre-Employment Interview

Tyler Ray Price didn’t even make it to the truth verification part of the process. In February of this year, the West Virginia man applied to the South Charleston Police Department. During a pre-employment interview, he blurted out that he had committed a date rape and recorded it on his phone. Police interviewed the victim, who said she didn’t consent. In fact, because she was drunk, she didn’t even remember it happening or know that he had recorded it. Instead of being part of the men and women in blue, Price has now been charged with second-degree sexual assault.

This police interviewer pretty much won the jackpot in terms of getting a confession, but most candidates aren’t so forthcoming about their past mistakes or criminal activities. Lying in a job interview or on a resume has become so commonplace that employment websites like LinkedIn even feature articles discussing what lies you can get away with as a potential hire. Police recruits are not immune from this practice and may omit shady details from their past or exaggerate their accomplishments. The police recruiter isn’t just looking for evidence of criminal behavior, but also whether they have used or are still using illegal drugs, if they have an alcohol problem, or if they are prone to behaviors that would make them unsuitable candidates, such as violent outbursts. Most interviewers won’t get a face-to-face confession like the one Price gave, and even an experienced interviewer may not pick up on every lie or omission—and that’s where truth verification comes in.

Validating the Truth with CVSA

The practice of using truth verification during police recruitment has been around for many years, and for a long time, the polygraph was the instrument of choice for most departments. That is changing as the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA®) gains ground because of its improved accuracy and ease of use. One reason for the transition is because the polygraph is susceptible to countermeasures. Fear of failing the truth verification examination and losing out on the job has led to online police forums sharing tips on how to pass the polygraph using these countermeasures.

Both the polygraph and the CVSA measure stress levels in response to questions as a means of determining if someone is being deceptive. The difference is that the CVSA focuses on the instantaneous stress evident in FM frequencies in the voice—which cannot be consciously manipulated—while the polygraph measures delayed or downstream physiological indicators such as breathing, heart rate, and perspiration. These factors can be controlled through methods such as causing a change in respiration or spiking blood pressure by self-inflicted pain or tensing and releasing muscles such as the sphincter.

Reducing Stress in the Truth Verification Examination

A website called Police Test Info, operated by a retired police officer and recruiter, offers a course that teaches individuals how to “pass” the polygraph—without countermeasures—by minimizing stress. He claims, “This stress can cause honest people to FAIL the exam” and that you don’t need to “pinch yourself or take tranquilizers.” Instead, their program teaches relaxation techniques. In some ways, this instructor is correct; situational stress unrelated to deception can lead to inconclusive, false positive, or other negative results. But while reducing such stress will help calm the subject and make it easier to distinguish between lies and true statements, it won’t help anyone “beat” the technology if, in fact, they do have something to hide. The other issue is that most polygraph examiners use a form of questioning called the Reid Technique, which tends to raise stress levels rather than lower them.

The gentleman who offers these courses on passing the polygraph also claims he can teach you how to pass the CVSA. However, there is no way to manipulate or challenge this technology by changing the FM frequency of your voice, which is inaudible to the human ear and therefore something we have no conscious control over. What he really teaches is how to reduce overall stress during your police pre-employment truth verification examination.

However, the CVSA Examiner takes care of reducing situational stress—no need to take a course beforehand. CVSA Examiners are trained in a method called the Defense Barrier Removal (DBR®) system, which helps build rapport, relax the interview subject, and makes it easier for examiners to focus on stress directly related to the questions. This provides more trustworthy results with no inconclusive or false readings. The CVSA is scientifically proven through lab and field testing to have a greater than 98% accuracy rating, making it the ideal truth verification tool for the pre-employment vetting process.

Keeping the bad apples out of policing is key to creating a strong ethical culture in your agency. Choosing the wrong person for this important job could create a nightmare for your police agency through bad PR or the possibility of criminal and civil lawsuits. Fortunately, advances in technology like the CVSA provide better tools for those who are tasked with the difficult job of determining who gets to put on the uniform and live their dream of serving their community.

Please reach out to us at NITV Federal Services to learn more about our CVSA systems and training programs.